Qunu road closures announced ahead of Mandela's funeral

Kwanele Sosibo

Major roads around Qunu will be closed early on Friday night due to former president Nelson Mandela's funeral on Sunday.

Former president Nelson Mandela. (Nicolas Asfouri, AFP)

Parts of the N2 and the R61 will be closed as early as 9pm on Friday night due to former state president Nelson Mandela's funeral preparations, taking place in his village of Qunu.

Police spokesperson colonel Mzukisi Fatyela said no set time was allocated for the reopening and that only accredited media would be let through at specific times. The N2 would be closed between the Mthatha and Dutywa, while the R61 would be closed between Mthatha and Ngcobo. Other traffic would be redirected through alternative routes, Fatyela said.

The announcement was made on Friday during a security and logistic press briefing held at the Nelson Mandela Museum in the village, close to where Mandela's funeral would be taking place on Sunday.

Brian Dube from the ministry of state security said communication with local residents about the road closures was communicated via community radio stations as well as loud hailers in the various wards.

Rehearsals of some of the proceedings, such as the body's procession from Mthatha to Qunu, due to take place on Saturday, were already in progress in Mthatha.

Accredited journalists
Chief director of government and media relations at the Government Communication and Information Systems Neo Momodu said over 4 000 journalists (and counting) had been accredited but only the SABC would be allowed access into the farm adjoining Madiba's house, where the funeral was taking place.

Information on exactly what alternatives other journalists could pursue in getting a view into the low-lying property was vague. Department of justice and constitutional development spokesperson Mthunzi Mhaga told journalists to "not even attempt to go there [around the enclosed area]", before stating that journalists could film from outside the enclosed area as long as they did not have an unfair advantage over journalists positioned within the museum where a media centre has been set up.

To this, Momodu added that parts of the funeral were private and "not even the SABC would be filming those segments, so if you're removed, it's because you're suspected of having that unfair advantage that Mthunzi is talking about".

Journalists set up camp around Qunu and also at a school overlooking the house. Security into the Qunu village where Mandela lived has been tight during the day and the perimetre fence of his property, which includes a farm, is patrolled by army personnel.

She said more information would be made available via the website and that media centres such as the south lawns of the union buildings and Nasrec would be available for media people in Gauteng.

The funeral on Sunday is expected to be attended by several heads of state, former heads of state and eminent persons, including Malawi's President Joyce Banda, Prince Charles of Wales, and the US's Reverend Jesse Jackson.

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