‘We feel trapped in our own village’

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Nonkumbulo Mandela, who owns a bed-and-breakfast, is upset journalists have been asked to leave. Photo: Cindy Waxa

Cape Town - Journalists in Qunu for the funeral of Nelson Mandela were scrambling for alternative accommodation on Thursday night after they were ordered by the police and army to leave the area following government orders to restrict access to the Mandela homestead and his burial site.

Some villagers have expressed their disappointment at being excluded from the funeral, with local chief Nokwanele Balizulu saying residents felt like prisoners in their own village as the military and police locked down the area.

Police and soldiers, some in Nyalas and a helicopter, closely monitored the dome where the funeral service is to be held. The dome, which has just been completed, has been declared a national key point and security personnel prevented press photographers and others from taking pictures of it or the burial site.

Balizulu said residents were disappointed by the treatment they have received from government officials.

“I seriously don’t know what is happening here. We live like chickens, in fact we feel like prisoners in our own village. If Tata was still alive he wouldn’t be pleased…he would ask what is going on here because local residents were everything to him.

“We can’t move freely anymore. We can’t have visitors… we can’t accommodate the media. We are made to feel guilty about living close to the Mandela home,” she said.

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Locals watch convoys approach Nelson Mandelas home. Photo: Adrees Latif


Balizulu said apart from restrictions, residents also felt excluded in the preparations with nobody in the Mandela family and the government showing an interest in what they are willing to contribute toward the funeral.

The army and police patrolled the village on foot, going door to door, instructing journalists to find alternative accommodation, saying their presence was a security risk.

A police officer who didn’t want to be named said they had been given strict instructions from the national government to restrict media access: “We also don’t like restricting you when doing your work, but these are the orders from above. We have been told to protect the dome because it’s a national key point. We will have many heads of state coming here… we don’t want potential terrorists to use the pictures from the media to target the dome.”

A photographer who works for an international agency was kicked out twice on Thursday for fear that he might take photographs of the dome and burial site. The photographer, who had been staying in the village for a day, was stopped in a road block and instructed not to proceed to his accommodation as no journalists were allowed to stay close to the Mandela homestead.

“They said I can only go in to my accommodation to fetch my equipment and my other belongings… It had been said before that security would be tight around Madiba home so I didn’t really mind,” he said.

But the journalist lost his cool after he was kicked out of his alternate accommodation, about 5km from the dome.

Cape Argus

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