BY GREGORY KATZ
JOHANNESBURG (AP) — The remains of anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela were transferred early Saturday to Waterkloof air base for a farewell from the African National Congress.
The military handed over Mandela’s flag-draped coffin to the ANC at a solemn ceremony broadcast live on South African television. The proceedings included a multi-faith service and a musical tribute to Mandela at the air base.
The remains were to be returned to military control later Saturday morning. It will then be flown to the Eastern Cape in preparation for Mandela’s funeral the following day.
Mandela’s casket is expected to arrive at Mthatha in the Eastern Cape Saturday afternoon and to be greeted by a full military ceremony.
Rituals will also be performed before a motorcade takes the casket from Mthatha to the village of Qunu where Mandela will be buried on Sunday.
The public has been invited to view the cortege as it makes its way to Qunu. The body will be taken to the Mandela family farm, where more rituals will be performed.
A night vigil by the ANC is planned at Walter Sisulu University in Mthatha on Saturday, with party leaders and government officials honoring Mandela on the eve of his burial.
The late president died last week at age 95. His body lay in state for three days this week, drawing huge crowds of South Africans who mourned his death and celebrated his successful struggle against apartheid.
Many were disappointed when they could not view his remains because long lines and traffic problems meant that thousands had to be turned away without paying their final respects.