Private security firm, operating from car, for Mandela memorial

2013-12-09 20:29
A woman visits the Mandela House museum in Soweto. (Pedro Ugarte, AFP)

A woman visits the Mandela House museum in Soweto. (Pedro Ugarte, AFP)

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Johannesburg - With thousands expected to pack the FNB Stadium in Soweto for a memorial service for former president Nelson Mandela on Tuesday, a private security firm, using a small car as an office, was still hiring guards less than 24 hours before the event. 

Among those attending the memorial ceremony, will be US President Barack Obama.  

The manager of Sidas Security, George Mathabe, said the company would have 1 500 guards on duty on Tuesday.

"I'm doing this from the bottom of my heart, just to thank Tata," Mathabe said.

"My son is coming tomorrow as a visitor too. He's going to live in a free country. He's going to be able to do whatever he likes, thanks to Tata."

The day before the event, ground crews cut the grass in front of the stadium. Workers inside welded scaffolding for a stage and installed bulletproof glass to protect foreign leaders.

Nearly 100 heads of state are expected to assemble at the 95 000-capacity stadium, where Mandela made his last public appearance at the same stadium for the closing ceremony of the 2010 World Cup, when the venue was called Soccer City.

"Thousands" of officers will direct traffic, protect mourners and help the bodyguards of visiting dignitaries, Lieutenant General Solomon Makgale, a spokesperson for the SAPS said on Monday.

"We will be on hand to make sure people are able to grieve in a safe environment," Makgale told The Associated Press.

Makgale said a joint task force of police, diplomats and intelligence service personnel already have been making plans and talking to the foreign delegations who plan to attend the ceremony.

"Whether we have 10 heads of state coming or 70, or 100, we do have the capacity and plans in place to facilitate their movement," Makgale said.

Though security remains a concern, an AP reporter walked unsearched into the stadium on Monday by showing only a national press card issued in Europe.

It took about three minutes before a security officer asked journalists to leave the stadium's field. However, reporters could freely roam throughout the stadium, walk the aisles and see the ongoing stage construction.

Officials from the US Consulate in Johannesburg also toured the venue on Monday, but declined to speak to journalists.

Roads several square kilometres around the stadium will be closed on  Tuesday, and people will have to walk or take public transport to the stadium. Nearby stadiums equipped with viewing screens also will be open to accommodate overflow crowds.

Government Minister Collins Chabane told journalists on Monday that officials "can't guess" how many people will attend or will try to enter the stadium.

"Once we see that the numbers are becoming unmanageable ... access will be denied," Chabane said.

Mandela died Thursday at age 95.

The anti-apartheid icon's body will lie in state at the Union Buildings in Pretoria from Wednesday to Friday. He will be buried on Sunday in his home town of Qunu. 

- Send us your memories and photos of Nelson Mandela.

- 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

Read more on:    nelson mandela  |  barack obama  |  johannesburg

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