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Qunu, Eastern Cape - The gravesite at Nelson Mandela’s homestead in Qunu in the Eastern Cape, where the icon who is in a critical condition in hospital is expected to be buried, is being prepared to accommodate “thousands and thousands of people”.
That’s according to the construction supervisor at the site, Eric Bosman, representing Durbanville construction firm Haw & Inglis, who yesterday gave The Sunday Independent’s sister paper Weekend Argus some insight into the work being done there.
Speaking at the site, he confirmed it was being prepared for Madiba’s burial.
Twenty construction vehicles, including 10 trucks and various bulldozers, were working there non-stop yesterday. Bosman said they were creating the first temporary road to the site, built off the N2 highway and leading to the gravesite, which was expected to be completed by the end of the day.
“We started it (temporary road) two weeks ago and we’re finishing it today. It’s in preparation for the burial. This will allow mourners to drive to the site with ease. There will be space for everybody,” said Bosman.
The gravesite is situated on a high hill, the closest one to Madiba’s large peach-coloured homestead, which is adjacent to the N2 highway in Qunu.
Bosman said the site could accommodate an enormous number of people, since there were vast open fields around Mandela’s homestead. He said a section of the temporary road would be used by buses, while another section would be utilised by taxis and bakkies.
“He will be buried here,” he said, pointing to crop of aloes just below the top of the hill.
“The minibuses will come out there. And that one is for the buses,” he gesticulated as he pointed to the areas to be designated as drop-off zones for what is expected to be one of the biggest funerals to be seen in South Africa.
Bosman also pointed to a section far below the gravesite, and closer to Mandela’s homestead, where he said a “big tent” would be erected.
Two weeks ago Weekend Argus reported there was division over where Madiba should be buried – some felt he should not be buried at his homestead, but rather at the Mandela family burial site, situated on the opposite side of the N2 highway from Mandela’s homestead.
However, Bosman was adamant yesterday Mandela would be buried at his homestead.
Meanwhile, the area is wall-to-wall with journalists, photographers and camera people, who have flocked to the area as Mandela lies critical in hospital.
A few weeks ago only two or three media organisations were in Qunu, but that number has jumped to about 20 in the past week.
Most were firmly entrenched outside the Mandela homestead on Thursday and Friday, although there was very little action to see.
Everyone rushed to Mthatha, about 35km away, on Friday when news of the family feud over the burials of three of Mandela’s children broke.
The court action has pitted 16 members of the Mandela family against Mandela’s grandson Mandla Mandela, who is alleged to have moved the remains to Mvezo, where he is chief. Neither Mandla or other members of the family were at the Mthatha High Court however, so for the news teams, it was literally back to the drawing board.