Qunu getting ready for big influx

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Copy of Copy of st p5main qunu dome

INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPERS

Workers are hard at work erecting the huge dome near the graveyard on Nelson Mandelas property in Qunu, Eastern Cape. Photo: Brenton Geach

Johannesburg - About 70 international heads of state are expected to land at Mthatha Airport for Nelson Mandela’s funeral.

The airport will be closed to commercial flights from Wednesday and allow only international heads of state to land.

Airport manager Anderson Mudoneni said more than 100 aircraft, carrying former and international heads of state and international dignitaries, were expected.

“At this stage we can’t quantify the number of heads of state who will be using our airport.

“Others are still calling in order to get data for their flight plans, traffic and the size of the runaway for landing purposes,” Mudoneni said.

He said the aircraft would have to go through OR Tambo International Airport for declaration before proceeding to Mthatha Airport.

Therefore, arrangements had been made for the aircraft to be kept in Bhisho, the airports in Durban and East London, he said.

Mudoneni would not be drawn into revealing the names of heads of state expected to land at Mthatha Airport.

The army and SAPS have been camping at the airport since Saturday to ensure high-level security for international visitors.

Mudoneni said the number would be doubled as from Wednesday.

He said the SAPS and the army would be stationed at the airport until Tuesday, when commercial flights would be allowed into the airport again.

SANDF spokesman Xolani Mabanga said access to the airport and Qunu would start being controlled from Wednesday.

He declined to divulge the number of soldiers deployed to the airport and Qunu, “as this could compromise the security of those there”.

“We are working in collaboration with the SAPS and other state security agencies to secure the areas,” he said.

Mudoneni added that security was so tight that even employees at the airport had to be accredited by the National Intelligence Agency.

“Those who don’t have any form of identification will be turned away. The employees have been provided with an accreditation that is bearing their faces and names. This is how sensitive the level of security is,” he said.

Commercial flights have been informed they would be blocked because airspace would be limited and reserved only for international visitors.

“The airlines will have to deal with their customers and make arrangements about how they would be refunded if there is a need. I know people will be inconvenienced, but they will have to understand because this is an international event.”

Mudoneni said they were working in conjunction with the provincial Department of Transport and Public Works to co-ordinate the event.

The number of personnel working at the airport has been increased in order to deal with the higher passenger volume.

Meanwhile, work is steadily continuing at the state-of-the-art stage that has been erected to accommodate family members and dignitaries for the funeral.

Project co-ordinator Petros Nelani said the auditorium, made of steel with the use of a crane, would accommodate 4 000 people.

solly.maphumulo@inl.co.za and vuyo.mkhize@inl.co.za

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