Many waited under a hot sun for four or five hours in a line snaking through an open field to busses that would take the lucky ones to see Mandela.
"I feel like I've lost a once in a lifetime opportunity," said 22-year-old student Caiphus Ramushun. "I'm frustrated because I got so close," he added, saying he was only about 100 people away from making it to the buildings.
"I spent eight hours in line. I came so close to going on. Instead I was turned away," he said.
Mandela's body was on display since Wednesday, with larger and larger crowds trying to view it each day. About 70,000 mourners were able to file past the casket Friday, government spokeswoman Phumla Williams said.
But Friday's surge overwhelmed planners, who were not able to move people through security checkpoints and onto busses quickly enough.