Dry-runs for Mandela funeral

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South African military march past South African former president Nelson Mandela's former home in Qunu. Picture: Carl de Souza

Qunu -

The police, the military, government officials and the media were preparing on Friday for the funeral of former president Nelson Mandela in Qunu, in the Eastern Cape.

On a hill at the Nelson Mandela museum a few kilometres away from the Mandela homestead, international and local television cameras were being set up.

Journalists used white tape and plastic markers to designate their spots on a hill overlooking the village.

Some have been there since last week and have set up gazebos where presenters can stand for live crossings.

The Mandela homestead, where the funeral will be held on Sunday, can be seen from the hill.

A large structure, a few metres high and wide, with a round roof and a wide bottom, can be seen in the distance. Work on the structure began last Friday. It has been finished off with panels, and a large white marquee has been erected nearby.

Outside broadcast vans, more gazebos, satellite dishes and generators have been set up close to the media centre, which is in a marquee set up at the museum.

Journalists covering the funeral will not be allowed any closer than this.

The SA Broadcasting Corporation will furnish them with images and sound.

Shortly before 3pm on Friday, a military helicopter landed a few metres from the media centre.

Jets and other military helicopters have circled overhead since Friday morning.

Cannons have been heard firing in the vicinity of Mandela's house, leaving behind a thick cloud of white smoke.

Access to the Mandela homestead was controlled on Friday, with police blocking all roads leading to the main gate.

Police have closed off the N2, the main road to and from Qunu, for a few kilometres before and after Mandela's house.

The side-road through Qunu, which media and other people initially used to get to the house, was closed late on Tuesday afternoon.

On Friday, a long line of buses formed near the house.

Government spokesman Mthunzi Mhaga warned photographers and reporters that they would be removed if they were found filming or taking pictures in restricted areas.

“The media is allowed in Qunu as long as you are not in an area that gives you an unfair advantage over other media houses,” he said.

More military and police have been deployed to the village in the past few days. - Sapa

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