Work starts to open Madiba’s grave to the pub­lic

CityPress - - News - LUBABALO NGCUKANA lubabalo.ngcukana@city­press.co.za

For­mer pres­i­dent Nelson Man­dela’s gravesite in Qunu in the East­ern Cape is re­ceiv­ing a face-lift. The ren­o­va­tions form part of plans to open it for pub­lic view­ing for the first time since Madiba’s pass­ing in De­cem­ber 2013 as part of cen­te­nary cel­e­bra­tions of the global icon’s birth next year.

The gravesite has been re­served for fam­ily and close friends since he was buried on his farm near Mthatha.

The pub­lic was also not al­lowed to at­tend the burial.

City Press has ob­served work be­ing done at the gravesite with new struc­tures, in­clud­ing shel­ters, be­ing con­structed.

Nd­aba Man­dela, one of Madiba’s grand­sons, con­firmed that there was work tak­ing place to ac­com­mo­date vis­i­tors and tourists and that the fam­ily was hop­ing that ev­ery­thing would be ready by the time the world cel­e­brated the cen­te­nary of his fa­mous grand­fa­ther’s birth next year.

“We are hop­ing that the gravesite will be open and ready be­fore Man­dela Day on July 18. There is still a lot of work to be done. We are still rais­ing money. These things take time,” Man­dela said.

Man­dela added that the fam­ily wanted to make sure there was shel­ter where peo­ple could sit, a gar­den and other ameni­ties such as run­ning wa­ter be­fore pub­lic view­ing com­menced.

He said the pro­ject was be­ing spear­headed by the fam­ily. He could not say how much more money was still needed to com­plete the pro­ject, nor di­vulge how much had al­ready been spent.

Nkosikazi Nok­wanele Bal­izulu, the chief of Qunu, whose home is on the doorstep of Madiba’s house along the N2 high­way be­tween Mthatha and East Lon­don, said she was aware of ac­tiv­i­ties tak­ing place at the global icon’s gravesite, but noth­ing official had been com­mu­ni­cated to the royal fam­ily.

“The only in­for­ma­tion that I got at a meet­ing at the Nelson Man­dela Museum re­cently, was that they were dis­cussing plans to re­fur­bish Madiba’s gravesite so that it can be open to the pub­lic. Other than that, Qunu res­i­dents and even I as chief are not aware of what is re­ally go­ing on,” Bal­izulu said.

Man­dela did not want to com­ment on the lat­est de­vel­op­ments re­gard­ing the con­tro­ver­sial book writ­ten about his grand­fa­ther’s last days.

Asked whether he was aware that the book was be­ing dis­trib­uted widely through so­cial media and the in­ter­net, in spite of the pub­lisher hav­ing with­drawn hard copies from book­shops, Man­dela would not be drawn to com­ment.

The con­tro­ver­sial book was au­thored by for­mer sur­geon-gen­eral Dr Ve­jay Ram­lakan. It was with­drawn by its pub­lish­ers, Pen­guin Ran­dom House SA, fol­low­ing an out­cry by the fam­ily and threats of le­gal ac­tion.

Man­dela said some mem­bers of the fam­ily were against the book, but not all.

He re­fused to com­ment fur­ther on the ma­te­rial cur­rently go­ing viral on the in­ter­net and so­cial­me­dia plat­forms.

Lunga Nene, spokesper­son for the Nelson Man­dela Foun­da­tion, also did not want to com­ment on the book saga, say­ing they were aware it had spread via so­cial media.

“We are aware that it’s go­ing viral but that’s that,” she shrugged.

Nd­aba Man­dela

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