Qunu fam­ily asked to put off fu­neral

Gran’s burial pro­ceed­ing amidst fears mourn­ers will be barred

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - NELSON MANDELA 1918-2013 - SIPOKAZI FOKAZI

AS THE work to pre­pare for one of the world’s big­gest fu­ner­als in­ten­si­fies, the se­cu­rity lock­down around the val­ley vil­lage of Qunu has be­come a night­mare for many lo­cals fol­low­ing an­nounce­ments that ac­cess in the area will be strictly con­trolled.

While se­cu­rity per­son­nel have en­cour­aged vil­lagers to post­pone their shop­ping un­til af­ter the fu­neral of Nel­son Man­dela, the fam­ily of Nom­bulelo Kh­wat­sha say they’ve been left in limbo in re­spect of a fu­neral of their own – that of their 78-year-old grand­mother, which was planned for to­day.

Last night the N2, the only route that leads to Qunu, was closed and au­thor­i­ties could not give the fam­ily as­sur­ances about whether their visi­tors would be al­lowed to at­tend the fu­neral, less than 3km from the Man­dela homestead.

Yes­ter­day morn­ing, while mil­i­tary jets flew over­head and Nyalas and foot sol­diers combed the usu­ally serene vil­lage, the Kh­wat­sha homestead was abuzz with ac­tiv­ity as male rel­a­tives brought in loads of wood, large cook­ing pots and dishes that would serve hun­dreds of peo­ple ex­pected to at­tend the fu­neral. By 8am, men had al­ready started slaugh­ter­ing the first two of the nine sheep, while women milled around the homestead pre­par­ing for the first mourn­ers, set to come from East Lon­don, Butterworth and Ng­cobo.

All would use the N2 to ac­cess the home.

Kh­wat­sha’s daugh­ter Felicity Mgoqi was adamant that the fam­ily would go ahead with the fu­neral, but ad­mit­ted they were afraid that their guests would be turned away af­ter po­lice head, Colonel Mzuk­isi Fatyela, an­nounced dur­ing a press brief­ing that the N2 would be off-lim­its to the gen­eral pub­lic from 9pm on Thurs- day. Only those ac­cred­ited to at­tend the Man­dela fu­neral would be al­lowed ac­cess.

Mgoqi said that while they had been given as­sur­ances by traf­fic au­thor­i­ties that their visi­tors would be al­lowed into the vil­lage to pay their last re­spects to Kh­wat­sha, she was wor­ried that they could be turned back.

“We are ex­pect­ing a lot of peo­ple, mostly from out­side Qunu, but at the same time we are also very wor­ried about the road clo­sures. My mother died two days be­fore Tata, and we were happy that their fu­ner­als didn’t clash be­cause we knew that if they were on the same day this would make things im­pos­si­ble for us.

“We hope they won’t turn any­body away be­cause we have made all the prepa­ra­tions. We want our mother to have a de­cent fu­neral also, just like Tatu’uMan­dela,” she said.

Brian Dube, spokesman for Gov­ern­ment Com­mu­ni­ca­tions In­for­ma­tion Sys­tems (GCIS), couldn’t give any as­sur­ances re­gard­ing the Kh­wat­sha rel­a­tives.

“We are try­ing to get the lo­cal mu­nic­i­pal­ity to co-or­di­nate things per­tain­ing to this fu­neral. One sug­ges­tion was that the fam­ily post­pone it for another date. We are still con­sult­ing with the mu­nic­i­pal­ity. We hope they can post­pone it suc­cess­fully or, if the fam­ily re­fuses, we will have to make a plan on how rel­a­tives can get to the fu­neral,” he said.

Mean­while, for other vil­lagers life is go­ing on as usual, with some ob­serv­ing tra­di­tional rit­u­als. One of the Man­dela homesteads cel­e­brated the ini­ti­a­tion of their son by hav­ing Um­ng­camo. Tra­di­tion­ally, the cer­e­mony is held a week af­ter the cir­cum­ci­sion. It marks the first time the ini­ti­ate drinks wa­ter and eats meat af­ter the ac­tual cir­cum­ci­sion.

A fam­ily mem­ber said even though there was death in the fam­ily, the cer­e­mony had to be done as the ini­ti­ate had to re­turn from the moun­tain next week.

sipokazi.fokazi@inl.co.za

PIC­TURE CINDY WAXA

GRAVE PREPA­RA­TIONS: Work con­tin­ued through­out this week at Nel­son Man­dela’s burial site in Qunu.

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