Johannesburg - The remains of former president Nelson Mandela are being prepared to lie in state at the Union Buildings in Pretoria next week, Minister in the Presidency Collins Chabane said on Saturday.
“As we speak today, president Mandela's body is being prepared by the military health service of the SA National Defence Force to lie in state... from Wednesday, 11 December, to Friday, 13 December,” he told reporters in Johannesburg.
“While this is happening, work is under way at critical venues such as the Union Buildings, FNB Stadium in Johannesburg, Mthatha and Qunu in the Eastern Cape, and at ports of entry, to prepare for the events related to the state funeral.”
Access to all official state events surrounding former president Nelson Mandela would be controlled.
“The public is advised that all venues Ä the Mandela house, FNB Stadium, the Union Buildings Ä will be cordoned off and access will be controlled,” he said.
All key areas would be managed by law enforcement.
Chabane said the national government was in consultation with provinces to ensure that people from around the country attended the memorial service at the FNB Stadium, in Johannesburg, on Tuesday.
“Unfortunately, we can never get an unlimited space (for the memorial),” he said.
“We can't tell people not to come to the memorial service.”
He said the event would be broadcast live.
Chabane urged the public to watch the memorial from “alternative viewing areas”.
He said the event would take place during the day on Tuesday, and that the general public would not need accreditation to attend the service.
Several major roads around the FNB Stadium would be closed for the service. They were: the N1 Highway and Rand Show Road, the N1
and Soweto Highway, the N1 and 17, the N1 and Nasrec offramp, Greenwood Road and Booysens Reserve, and Nasrec and Main Reef Roads.
A number of visiting heads of state would attend the event, but Chabane could not say who or how many.
He said people who wanted to attend the lying in state of Mandela at the Union Buildings amphitheatre would be shuttled there from two venues in Tshwane.
“Only mourners who report to these venues will be allowed to visit the Union Buildings and view the remains,” Chabane said.
“Mourners are advised that cameras, including cellphones, will not be allowed at the Union Buildings.”
There would be a public procession through the streets of Pretoria on each day that Mandela's remains were transported between 1 Military Hospital and the Union Buildings.
“Government invites mourners to line this route and form a public guard of honour for Tata Madiba when the remains are transported,” Chabane said.
“We call on members of the public to co-operate with the authorities to ensure that this event is dignified and secure.”
Chabane said it was not certain “at the moment” whether Mandela's casket would be open or closed.
Next Saturday, Mandela's remains would be transported to the Eastern Cape from the Waterkloof Air Force Base in Pretoria.
On the same day, a procession would take place from Mthatha to Qunu, where the Thembu community will conduct a traditional ceremony.
The state funeral will take place in Qunu next Sunday.
“It (the funeral) is basically run by the national defence force, but at the same time we have to take into account the issues we have to deal with, like our culture, the history of our country and the person we are dealing with,” he said.
“Therefore, it might not comply exactly... to what is supposed to happen (in a state funeral).”
He said the times and details of the events would be released later.
Chabane's briefing was the first in a series of updates that would be given by an inter-ministerial committee responsible for the events.
“Throughout this process, the government will be in close contact with the Mandela family to ensure that all events conform to the family's wishes and are culturally compliant,” he said.
“They (the family) are fine. We know it is a difficult period, and we understand the challenges they are facing.” - Sapa
* Buy an Independent Newspapers weekend paper for the special Nelson Mandela supplement.