Mandela family to accompany remains to Qunu


The family of former president Nelson Mandela will accompany his remains on the flight to the Eastern Cape on Saturday morning.

The town of Qunu is busy preparing for the funeral of Nelson Mandela on Sunday. (Delwyn Verasamy)

"Tomorrow [Saturday morning], the body of Mr Nelson Mandela will leave Waterkloof [Air Force Base] at 10.45am," family spokesperson General Temba Matanzima told reporters in Johannesburg on Friday. "He will leave Waterkloof with members of the family, who will accompany him." Matanzima said members of the military would also accompany Mandela's remains.

"When they land in Mthatha, at about 12.45pm, the body and the delegation ... will be met by members of the family, members of the Thembu nation and others who are prepared to meet and accompany the family."

From there, the convoy would proceed through the streets of Mthatha. "There will be two stops. There will be a stop on York Road, next to the old stadium, and there will be another stop at Ultra City for 10 or 15 minutes for people to see," Matanzima said.

From there, the convoy would proceed to Qunu, where the remains would be handed over to the Mandela family by the military. "The members of the family will [then] do their part, taking the body into the house of Madiba, and there they will wait until the next morning, when the official funeral will take place."

Matanzima said the government would provide further details of the funeral programme. In Qunu the police, the military, government officials and the media were preparing on Friday for the funeral Mandela.

He died at his home in Houghton, Johannesburg, last Thursday at the age of 95.

White tape
On a hill at the Nelson Mandela Museum, a few kilometres away from the Mandela homestead, international and local television cameras were being set up. Journalists used white tape and plastic markers to designate their spots on a hill overlooking the village. Some have been there since last week and have set up gazebos where presenters can stand for live crossings.

The Mandela homestead, where the funeral will be held on Sunday, can be seen from the hill. A large structure, a few metres high and wide, with a round roof and a wide bottom, can be seen in the distance. Work on the structure began last Friday. It has been finished off with panels, and a large white marquee has been erected nearby. Outside broadcast vans, more gazebos, satellite dishes and generators have been set up close to the media centre, which is in a marquee set up at the museum. Journalists covering the funeral will not be allowed any closer than this. The South African Broadcasting Corporation will furnish them with images and sound.

Shortly before 3pm on Friday, a military helicopter landed a few metres from the media centre. Jets and other military helicopters have circled overhead since Friday morning. Cannons have been heard firing in the vicinity of Mandela's house, leaving behind a thick cloud of white smoke. Access to the Mandela homestead was controlled on Friday, with police blocking all roads leading to the main gate.

Police have closed off the N2, the main road to and from Qunu, for a few kilometres before and after Mandela's house. The side-road through Qunu, which media and other people initially used to get to the house, was closed late on Tuesday afternoon. On Friday, a long line of buses formed near the house.

Government spokesperson Mthunzi Mhaga warned photographers and reporters that they would be removed if they were found filming or taking pictures in restricted areas. "The media is allowed in Qunu as long as you are not in an area that gives you an unfair advantage over other media houses," he said. More military and police have been deployed to the village in the past few days. – Sapa

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