December 11th, 2013
09:49 AM ET

Mandela's Body Lying in State, Dignitaries and Public Will Visit To Pay Respects

Heads bowed, solemn, they filed by.

The rich, the powerful. The famous and the family. All of them bidding goodbye to anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela on Wednesday, the first of three days his body will lie in state at the seat of South Africa's government.

"The mood here at the Union Buildings is very somber, very sad on this day, very different to what we saw yesterday," reports CNN's Isha Sesay.

First was South African President Jacob Zuma, then came Mandela's widow Graça Machel and former wife Winnie Mandela, both wearing black turbans.

In near silence, dozens of family members passed by as military honor guards dressed in white flanked the coffin on each end.

There were others too. Former South African leaders Thabo Mbeki and F.W. de Klerk, the country's last apartheid-era president and Nobel Peace Prize winner. U2's Bono also paused for a moment before moving on. So did Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe.

The first day was reserved for family and dignitaries.

The public will be allowed to file past his casket on Thursday and Friday. Viewing hours are expected to be limited to daylight. Long lines are expected to form from the very early hours of the morning.

"This really is the first opportunity for many to view the remains of the former president and it really is bringing home the fact that the beloved Madiba is no longer with us," Sesay says.

On Saturday, events will shift south. A military aircraft will take Mandela's remains from a Pretoria airbase to Mthatha, the main town in the province of Eastern Cape.

Thousands of mourners are expected to line the streets from Mthatha airport to watch as the military transports Mandela's casket on a gun carriage to the remote village of Qunu, where the former leader spent his childhood years.

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