Mvezo gears up for Madiba tribute

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

A large mar­quee is be­ing erected at Mvezo in the East­ern Cape ahead of the Nel­son Man­dela cen­te­nary cel­e­bra­tions, com­mem­o­rat­ing the global icon’s birth on July 18.

Mvezo is the birth­place of the late for­mer pres­i­dent. He was was born in 1918, in an im­pov­er­ished vil­lage over­look­ing the Mb­hashe River.

When City Press vis­ited the area on Fri­day, the mar­quee’s large steel-frame struc­ture could be seen. Parts of it were cov­ered as work­ers were busy build­ing an ac­com­pa­ny­ing arena as big as the mar­quee. The scene was rem­i­nis­cent of Man­dela’s fu­neral, which was held in Qunu in De­cem­ber 2013.

It was not im­me­di­ately clear how far prepa­ra­tions had got. Nkosi Zwe­liv­elile Mandla Man­dela, Madiba’s el­dest grand­son, promised that all would be re­vealed soon. Mandla is the chief of abaThembu baku Mvezo.

But sur­pris­ingly, at Madiba’s burial place in Qunu, no vis­i­ble work has been done. This, de­spite plans stated by the fam­ily to open the late icon’s gravesite for pub­lic view­ing for the first time, as part of the cen­te­nary cel­e­bra­tions.

In Au­gust last year, City Press no­ticed work be­ing done at the gravesite, in­clud­ing the build­ing of shel­ters.

Then Nd­aba Man­dela, an­other of Madiba’s grand­sons, dis­closed that the fam­ily had plans to open the site for pub­lic view­ing ahead of July 18 this 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,” Nd­aba told City Press at the time.

He added that the fam­ily, who had spear­headed the project, wanted to en­sure that there was a shel­ter where peo­ple could sit, as well as a gar­den and other ameni­ties such as run­ning wa­ter, be­fore they could open it up for pub­lic view­ing.

But this week, it was un­clear whether those plans were still on track.

Os­car Mabuyane, ANC chair­per­son in the prov­ince, who is also the MEC for eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment, en­vi­ron­men­tal af­fairs and tourism, said the de­ci­sion lay with the fam­ily.

“I will leave that to the ANC and the fam­ily as they are more cen­tral to that. Re­mem­ber, Madiba be­longed to the fam­ily be­fore he be­came an ANC per­son. So, the fam­ily re­mains the cen­tre of de­ci­sion-mak­ing on that is­sue, but we are in dis­cus­sions.

“We think that the fam­ily will at some point un­der­stand that Tata Man­dela lived for the peo­ple. He would still want that im­pact, that legacy, to con­tinue ... Hav­ing his grave as a tourist des­ti­na­tion would help us im­prove and cre­ate more jobs – jobs that he was fight­ing for,” Mabuyane said.

In Jan­uary, the ANC’s top six could not visit Madiba’s gravesite af­ter be­ing told by the fam­ily that the site was not open to the pub­lic as there were still some out­stand­ing tra­di­tional fam­ily rit­u­als that needed to be per­formed first.

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