Family members and South African President Jacob Zuma were among the first to bid a final farewell to Nelson Mandela.
Graca Machel, Mandela’s widow, and his ex-wife Winnie Mandela also paid their tearful respects at the State’s Union Building.
South Africans have been queuing for hours for a chance to say goodbye to the man they affectionately call Madiba before he is laid to rest in his ancestral home of Qunu.
The funeral cortege of Nelson Mandela passed through the streets of Pretoria on Wednesday morning, and South Africa’s first black president will now repeat the journey twice more, lying in state until Friday before being sent to his final resting place.
The procession, which will be repeated on Thursday and Friday mornings, passes the one-time home of Paul Kruger, who was the president of the Transvaal and lead a resistance movement against British rule during the first Anglo-Boer War, which began in 1880, and will pass the central prison where Mandela was jailed in 1962 for incitement and leaving the country illegally.
His conviction and subsequent life sentence marked the beginning of a 27-year jail stint, from which he finally emerged in 1990 as the structure of apartheid crumbled around its white minority supporters.
The funeral procession will be repeated for three days, ending each time at the Union Buildings – the seat of government where previous presidents had signed aspects of the apartheid system into law.
South Africans are being encouraged to line the route of the march, from the city’s 1 Military Hospital to the Union Buildings where Mandela was sworn in as their president nearly 20 years ago.
Members of the public will then be given a chance to say their final, personal goodbyes to Mandela while he lies in state.
It is going to be a more sombre reflection on the life of Mandela than the celebration of the anti-apartheid freedom fighter that took place in the national stadium in Soweto on Tuesday.
The raucous crowd greeted speakers with a chorus of cheers, and in some in some cases boos, as they took to the stage to try to eulogise Mandela and express what he had done for the nation.
‘Giant of history’
In his speech, Raul Castro, who earlier in the day shared a handshake with US President Barack Obama, quoted his brother Fidel Castro, former Cuba leader, and said, “Mandela will not go down in history for the 27 years he spent behind bars … but because he was able to free his soul from the poison that such unjust punishment can cause.”
Obama himself was greeted with cheers as he took to the stage, saying “It is hard to eulogise any man … how much harder to do so for a giant of history, who moved a nation towards justice.”
Current South African President Jacob Zuma, however, received boos and jeers, a reflection of the ongoing criticism of the nation’s current leaders and their seeming inability to continue Mandela’s legacy of justice and equality.
Thami Mabunda, a local ANC leader from Soweto, spoke to Al Jazeera’s Azad Essa about the memorial service for Mandela. He said the event could have been better managed and that Zuma is getting the same treatment that the country’s second democratically elected president, Thabo Mbeki, did.