“Nothing’s being closed: commercial flights will continue as normal,” an East London airport official told Grocott’s Mail on Sunday 8 December.
He was responding to a question about rumours that it would be closed to accommodate VIPs travelling to Qunu for Nelson Mandela’s funeral on Sunday 15 December.
The official, who asked not to be named said that while there might be restrictions on private flights, commercial flights would continue as scheduled. However, he said that because access roads and the airport itself would be very busy, passengers should arrive in plenty of time for their flights.
In a media statement released on Saturday 7 December, Eastern Cape Premier Noxolo Kiviet said the province’s infrastructure and hospitality industry were ready for mourners expected to pour into the province during the coming week.
“Our infrastructure is ready namely the roads, airports, public transport, stadia, electricity,” Kiviet said.
East London and Port Elizabeth airports will be the main points of entry for mourners flying into the province. The Mthatha airport will be used only for heads of state.
“The other two airports in PE and EL shall be open to the VIPs and public,” Kiviet said. “VVIPs attending the funeral will be driven by luxury coaches to Qunu to avoid stampede in the N2.
“Furthermore I would like to appeal to residents of the Eastern Cape for understanding, as some roads might be closed or traffic diverted during this period. Road and Traffic management authorities will make announcements in this regard.”
She said the hospitality and tourism sector, led by the Eastern Cape Parks and Tourism Agency, were ready to welcome visitors to the province. However, accommodation would be stretched and Kiviet appealed to Eastern Cape citizens to open their homes.
“Eastern Cape people are known to be humble, warm and welcoming people and I am convinced that we are ready to welcome the world to a province called the “Home of Legends”,” Kiviet said.
“A number of tourism information centre kiosk have been mounted around the province to make it easier for tourists and mourners to navigate our beautiful province,” Kiviet said.
She said 69 condolence books were currently being distributed throughout the province to cover 45 municipalities.
The official memorial service for the Eastern Cape will be in Port Elizabeth at the 2010 World Cup Stadium on Friday 13 December.
Kiviet said there would be public viewing areas around the province for both the state funeral in Qunu on 15 December and the national memorial service at FNB Stadium in Johannesburg on Tuesday 10 December.
Secretary of the ANC’s Sarah Baartman Region Scara Njadayi earlier today confirmed that Makana would host the live big-screen coverage of the funeral. The venue will be Miki Yili Stadium in Joza.
Meanwhile, a member of the logistics support team for Sunday’s funeral told Grocott’s Mail this morning that the mood at the Qunu site was focused but excited.
“It’s a great vibe around here. People are excited to be a part of it.”
Teams were working hard to meet this weekend’s deadline.
“The shifts are tough for the construction workers – 7am to midnight,” said the person, who asked not to be named. “They’re under great pressure.But everyone’s really accommodating – the police, the army – they’re glad to be there.”
The person said progress on erecting the stadium where heads of state and other dignitaries will be seated was advanced.
“The stadium’s going up really well – the steel structures are up.”
Work started on the 4 000-seater stadium on Friday.
The next edition of Grocott’s Mail will carry a full supplement celebrating the life of the man who dedicated his whole life to the people of this country and taking a closer look at his connections with Grahamstown.
We invite readers to write in and share with us their feelings about the passing of our beloved leader, and let us know if you had a personal experience with him.
You can send your condolences and tributes to Grocott’s Mail’s SMS line at 082 049 2146, tweet @Grocotts or email them to firstname.lastname@example.org. We will post them on the Grocott’s Mail website, which will carry news and information about the mourning period and funeral of Nelson Mandela.