Rush to get Qunu all ready
THE military are rolling into the Eastern Cape, emergency health services are being deployed and a section of the N2 at Qunu has been blocked off.
It is all systems go to prepare for what will be the biggest funeral in South Africa’s history. Nelson Mandela will be buried in Qunu on Sunday.
According to Arrive Alive provincial spokes man Tshepo Machaea a 2km stretch of the N2 has already been blocked off – 500m on the East London side of Mandela’s house and 1.5km on the Mthatha side.
He said there was a detour for smaller vehicles but trucks were opting to use the R61.
A larger section of the road is expected to be blocked off later in the week but authorities will release details later. It is likely that all vehicles will then have to use the R61.
Meanwhile efforts to finish the multimillion-rand upgrade of the N2 between Qunu and Mthatha are going at full speed and are expected to be completed in the next three days according to the South African National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral).
The agency’s Eastern Cape regional manager Mbulelo Peterson yesterday said most sections of the road had already been completed.
“In fact we have already finished about 90% of the road . Even the route between Qunu and Vidgiesville is now being used by motorists,” he said.
He said Sanral was now working to finish the upgrading of an outstanding 3km.
“We are targeting to finish everything by Wednesday. Only rain can delay us but we are confident that if we are faced with that situation we will be able to have concluded the work come Friday.”
The upgrade on the N2 was started around May in 2011.
Peterson meanwhile said the agency would still be “doing trimmings” on the new road at least until January 2014.
Yesterday Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula said there would be some no-fly zones. The plan was being developed by the department of transport, the SA Civil Aviation Authority and the air force.
From Wednesday until Friday Mandela will lie in state at the Union Buildings in Pretoria.
“After that, on Saturday there will be a huge send-off at Waterkloof and Tata will be leaving.
“He will be going back home to Qunu, where he will be buried.”
Plans are that old friends and ANC stalwarts Andrew Mlangeni, Ahmed Kathrada and Dennis Goldberg, with whom he stood trial, and ANC Women’s League veteran Gertrude Shope, will accompany his body in the SA Air Force C130 aircraft to the Eastern Cape.
Mapisa-Nqakula will fly ahead to receive him.
She also said that the SA National Defence Force had cancelled all leave to have over 11000 soldiers help with logistical and security arrangements for Mandela’s memorial and funeral services nationwide this week.
Some of these are to be stationed in Qunu and at the Nelson Mandela Academic Hospital. They will be accommodated at the Walter Sisulu University student village.
WSU spokesman Angela Church said a number of residences at the university’s Nelson Mandela campus were already empty as students had finished the academic year, but those students still writing would not be inconvenienced.
Meanwhile hospital patients who are not critically ill are being sent home or referred elsewhere.
Both the Nelson Mandela Hospital and the Mthatha Airport has been taken over by the South African National Defence Force.
Health spokesman Sizwe Kupelo confirmed that some patients had been released as early as Friday.
“We will decant patients not critically ill to nearby hospitals. We will deal with emergencies only.
“The hospital will be run jointly, by health and military, as they (the military) have indicated that all doctors must be available.
“The military will be managing more accident and emergency as other services such as obstetrics need to continue.”
Health department officials and doctors from outside Mthatha and the province are being sent to Qunu in the event of any health emergencies.
Eastern Cape premier Noxolo Kiviet called on “all people of the Eastern Cape to work with authorities to ensure that the dignity and security of key public events is maintained throughout this period”.
The province will host its own provincial memorial service in Port Elizabeth at the Nelson Mandela Stadium on Thursday, December 12.
Kiviet expressed her satisfaction at the state of readiness for the funeral. On the day of the funeral there will be more than 3000 marshals along the way to Mthatha. Some major streets in Mthatha will be closed on the day and the public will be able to view Mandela’s body from near the Nelson Mandela Museum.
“The performance and conduct of government as well as the conduct of people of the Eastern Cape during this period will have a significant bearing on public opinion in the country and beyond, and all activities are therefore material to our province reputation.
“We must honour Madiba with dignity and pride,” Kiviet said.
“Our infrastructure is ready, namely the roads, airports, public transport, stadiums, electricity. In this regard the Mthatha Airport shall be exclusively utilised for landing of heads of state.
“The other two airports in PE and EL shall be open to the VIPs and public, and VVIPs attending the funeral will be driven by luxury coach to Qunu to avoid on the N2.
She appealed to residents of the Eastern Cape to be understanding in the face of road closures or traffic diversions during this period.
She said road and traffic management authorities would make announcements in this regard.
“Eskom has assured us that their electricity network in the area has been maintained since September and contingency plans/backup are in place in case of lapse,” Kiviet said.
“Since other public mourning activities and the state funeral would not be accessible to everyone, we have identified public viewing mourning areas (PVMAs) where people can view footage of the events.”
Three PMVAs in Qunu are to accommodate villagers in the area for the memorial service and funeral. — with additional reporting by Sapa