PRETORIA, Dec. 14 (Xinhua) -- South Africa's ruling alliance on Saturday gathered in the administrative capital of Pretoria, paying their last tributes to deceased former President Nelson Mandela.
The final send-off ceremony was held at the Waterkloof Air Force Base near Pretoria, where tens of thousands had seen him lie in state since Wednesday.
The South African government is currently ruled by a tripartite alliance formed by the largest party African National Congress (ANC), which Mandela had led, the South African Communist Party (SACP) and the Congress of the South African Trade Unions (COSATU).
Speaking at the ceremony, Jacob Zuma, head of the ANC and president of South Africa, praised Mandela for having successfully balanced between being a great thinker and a great doer in his political life.
"So many things have been said about Madiba (Mandela's Xhosa clan name) because he has done so many things; he has distinguished himself so many times in every way you can think of," Zuma said.
ANC Treasurer General Zweli Mkhize said he thanked the government and the Mandela family for giving the party an opportunity to say goodbye to the former president who spent most of his life serving the party.
Mandela's widow Graca Machel and ex-wife Winnie Mandela flanked Zuma, who sat in the front row at a newly-erected stage.
Mandela's flag-draped coffin carrying his body arrived at the military base early Saturday morning.
Following the ceremony, a military plane will carry Mandela's remains to Qunu in Eastern Cape province, his rural child home, for a traditional burial on the following day.
Mandela, 95, died of lung infection on December 5 at his Johannesburg residence.
Regarded as South Africa's state father, Mandela had led dozens of years of the anti-apartheid struggle before being the country's first black president in 1994.
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