Mandela village under lockdown ahead of burial

2013-12-13 07:50
SANDF troops in Qunu. (File, AFP)

SANDF troops in Qunu. (File, AFP)

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Qunu - South African troops lined the road to Nelson Mandela's burial site in his boyhood home at Qunu, as preparations for his funeral got under way on Thursday.

His homestead was under virtual security lockdown as armed troops arrived in truck convoys to carry out dress rehearsals inside.

Thousands of high-profile mourners, including numerous political figures are expected to descend on the remote location in Eastern Cape province, where Mandela will finally be laid to rest on Sunday.

Since the beginning of the week, workers have been busy preparing the site outside the small backwater town of Mthatha.

Heavy rain since Tuesday has hampered but not stopped construction of a large white dome-shaped marquee, where the funeral service will be held.

On Thursday, another structure was being erected next to the gigantic marquee.

According to government officials, the venue will accommodate some 5,000 people.

Access into the compound perched on a hilltop overlooking clutches of traditional huts is restricted to family members and relatives and several delivery trucks that were seen passing through the gates.

World figures

Several family members including Mandela's eldest daughter Makaziwe started arriving on Wednesday evening under police escort.

Mthatha Airport manager Anderson Maduneni said the facility, which normally handles two small commercial aircraft a day, will have to cope with 100 aircraft over the weekend bringing world figures in and out.

The airport has been shut down for commercial flights since the beginning of the week.

"The army has taken over the airport... it will only receive aircraft transporting dignitaries. It's one of the measures that have been put in place to ensure safety," said Maduneni.

Police are stationed along the length of the 35km road from the airport to Qunu, often stopping and searching vehicles.

The section nearest the Mandela homestead has been cordoned off since last week.

Friends, colleagues, comrades and family of Nelson Mandela are invited to share their memories and tributes, and to light a candle for him, on his profile at Remembered.co.za.

- Share your memories of Nelson Mandela with us.

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