Johannesburg – The Mthatha airport in the Eastern Cape will only be used for the landing of heads of state attending former president Nelson Mandela’s funeral, the province said on Sunday.
“VVIPs attending the funeral will be driven by luxury coaches to Qunu to avoid stampede in the N2,” provincial premier Noxolo Kiviet said in a statement.
VIPs and members of the public could use the Port Elizabeth and East London airports as alternatives, she said.
Mandela died at his home in Houghton, Johannesburg on Thursday night. He was 95.
His memorial service will be held at FNB stadium in Johannesburg on Tuesday and he will be buried at Qunu, where he grew up, next Sunday.
Kiviet said the province was ready for the large volumes of people expected to attend the funeral.
“Eskom has assured us that their electricity network in the area has been maintained since September and contingency plans are in place in case of lapse.”
She said the banking, retail and hospitality sectors were also ready for the increased numbers, but asked locals to assist where they could.
“I appeal to Eastern Cape citizens to open their homes and accommodate visitors to our province.”
Kiviet said public viewing mourning areas would be available for people to watch both the memorial service in Johannesburg and the funeral.
Eighteen mourning areas would be available to the public across OR Tambo, Nelson Mandela Bay, Bufallo City, Chris Hani, Queenstown, Joe Gqabi, Cacadu, Alfred Nzo and Amathole districts.
A provincial memorial service would be held at the Nelson Mandela stadium in Port Elizabeth on Tuesday, Kiviet said.
“We are encouraging all people of the Eastern Cape from all walks of life to join us on this solemn occasion.”
She sent her condolences to the icon’s family.
“As people of the Eastern Cape, we loved him so much – we would have been easily tempted to have jealously claimed him as our own, but we recognised that his towering stature as a symbol of freedom and peace transcended the rural boundaries of Qunu, his birth place, into the world for the benefit of all human kind.”
Security was tightened outside Mandela’s Qunu home on Saturday, with a heavy military presence.
At least 10 armoured vehicles were parked outside, and soldiers with firearms marched on the N2, past Mandela’s house, to their assembly point.
The N2, which is the main road to and from Qunu, has been closed for a few kilometres before and after Mandela’s house.
Police on horseback patrolled the streets in the village.
The media contingency outside the house was also growing.
Meanwhile, roadworks on the N2 continued, with workers filling potholes. – Sapa