PRETORIA — He lay in a bronze coffin, with military officials in starched white naval uniforms standing tall around him.
The body of Nelson Mandela, dressed in an African patterned shirt of gold and brown, drew an emotional reaction from many people who passed by to see him for the final time. Police ran out of the hundreds of boxes of tissues they brought in for people overcome with emotion.
"I shed a tear," she said. "It was very quiet. ... Even if you did not shed a tear inside, no one could come out and not shed a tear."
Mandela's coffin sat in the middle of an outdoor rotunda at the Unions Building, the presidential offices for South Africa. Built on Meintjieskop, a hill that overlooks the entirety of the capital, it is where he was sworn in as the first black president of a democratic South Africa.
A white canopy stood high above the coffin. A double line of people stretched through the building and out to the front of the buildings where mourners were deposited by bus. The two lines split as people walked past either side of the coffin.
There was no sound as they passed except for soft crying. People gazed at his body quickly and walked on.
Cameras were forbidden. No one had tried to take a picture of the late president, the Pretoria police said.
Brought to the building in a hearse with a military guard, the coffin was carried back to the hearse at early evening, though many thousands of people had yet to see him. They would have to wait, police said, and come back the next day, where Mandela will lie in state again, and once more Friday before being taken to his tribal village of Qunu far from here for burial Sunday.