Mthatha prepares to honour Madiba

Mthatha Airport has been a hub of activity this morning ahead of the arrival of Madiba's remains.

Military police vehicles line York street in Mthatha waiting to welcome Nelson Mandela's body on 14 December 2013. Picture: Renee de Villiers/EWN.

QUNU/MTHATHA - Mthatha Airport has been a hub of activity this morning with political heavyweights and senior government officials arriving ahead of Nelson Mandela's state funeral in the village of Qunu tomorrow morning.

The arrivals terminal has been cleared ahead of Mandela's arrival at around 2pm and all government dignitaries have been moved into a holding area in the departures area of the building.

Madiba's body is being flown to the Eastern Cape in a C-130 military aircraft.

South African National Defence Force troops are stationed around the precinct and two military trucks are parked on the airport runway along with several other police SUVs.

Another plane carrying Mandela's widow Graca Machel and other members of Madiba's family landed a short while ago.

Mining Minister Susan Shabangu, Gauteng Premier Nomvula Mokonyane, ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe, suspended Congress of South African Trade Unions General Secretary Zwelinzima Vavi and National Police Commissioner Riah Phiyega are among the high-profile guests who have already arrived.

Dalindyebo shared a laugh with United Democratic Front leader Bantu Holomisa and also spent time talking to members of the Mandela family.

A special ceremony is planned to receive Madiba's by the military and family after his arrival.

Dignitaries attending Nelson Mandela's funeral arrive at Mthatha Airport on 14 December 2013. Picture: Govan Whittles/EWN.

Advocate George Bizos arrives at Mthatha Airport ahead of Madiba's official state funeral on 15 December. Picture: Govan Whittles/EWN.

Zwelinzima Vavi outside Mthatha Airport in the Eastern Cape. Picture: Rahima Essop/EWN.

Madiba's friend Advocate George Bizos also arrived earlier and says he is sad to say goodbye to his friend of 65 years.

"He set an example not only for us in South Africa but the world at large that power is to be exercised with care and not to the benefit of any particular individual or group."


Crowds are gathering along the route between Mthatha and Qunu where Mandela's body will be transported later today.

People line up in keen anticipation of the procession of Nelson Mandela outside Mthatha Airport in the Eastern Cape on 14 December 2013. Picture: Rahima Essop/EWN.

The convoy will proceed from the airport to Mthatha town using Sutherland Road and is then expected to make a brief stop on York Street and then again near a filling station on Nelson Mandela Drive.

People have started gathering on lawns near the Shell Ultra City on Nelson Mandela Drive.

They are singing, ululating and shouting "viva Dalibunga", the name given to Mandela by the AbaThembu.

Some industrious people have started selling Mandela memorabilia outside.

One young woman says she is there today to be part of history.

"We are going to be able to tell our children that we were there when one of the greatest men was buried. Everyone here is excited to be a part of it."

Holidaymakers heading to Mthatha have been urged to avoid this area and make use of alternative routes to get to their respective destinations.

Click here for information on road closures around Mthatha.


Only a select-group of close family members and mourners will be at the burial ceremony.

Preparations in Qunu underway where Nelson Mandela's funeral will be held on 15 December. Picture: GCIS.

Around 4,000 people are expected to attend the funeral but only 400 will be allowed at the burial site.

High-profile guests include Prince Charles, Oprah Winfrey and a number of heads of state .

Government has released more details about tomorrow's events.

The programme will start at 8am and end at 10am.

Close family members and selected dignitaries will then make their way to the burial site.

President Jacob Zuma has deployed more than 11,000 members of the army to work with the police and maintain law and order during the funeral.

A public vigil will be held in Mthatha this evening at the Walter Sisulu University's Nelson Mandela Drive campus.

Simultaneous vigils will also take place in Johannesburg and Cape Town.