SANDF hails Mthatha residents

MEMBERS of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) were left singing praise for Mthatha residents after the successful delivery of Madiba’s body to his Qunu grave.

In an exclusive interview with the Daily Dispatch at the 14 SA Infantry Battalion in Mthatha and hours after former president Nelson Mandela’s body was lowered into the ground, Major-General Luvuyo Nobanda – who was in charge of the ensuring safety and security around the state funeral – praised the discipline and hospitality of local residents.

Libode-born Nobanda said his biggest achilles heel was the large crowds – as people would jostle for space trying to touch the car that was transporting the coffin – and the poor weather.

Town streets were confined and this increased the opportunity for people to try and move closer to the coffin.

Residents of Mandela Park informal settlement, which is along the R61, had come out in their numbers and this increased his worries.

“My greatest concern was people interfering with the movement of the convoy. If the body did not reach Qunu, I would be hanged. But throughout we didn’t experience any incident,” he said.

Nobanda was talking to troops on the ground from an army helicopter hovering above the convoy.

Their task was to ensure the event was conducted in a safe and secure manner, ensure a perfect ceremonial part, including the drilling and rendition of the SA Navy band was done perfectly and provide support to police and health department workers.

“And then the fourth one, which we normally do even if we are not told to do so, is to support the people.

“We had facilities ready for any eventualities. We honestly want to say thank you very much for your support. It was a wonderful experience working with people from this area,” he said.

He was also bothered by the heavy downpours that forced the plane carrying Mandela family members to be diverted from Mthatha to East London last week. But the East London airport and King Shaka International Airport in KwaZulu-Natal were part of their contingency measures in case of emergency.

Nobanda said nearly 6000 soldiers from the SA navy, army, air force and medical unit were part of the “Task Force South” group from the day after Mandela’s death.

Nobanda, who is a chief director for military training, said their primary role was to support stakeholders including police, traffic officers and medical staff. —