Madiba family inspects gravesite

Sipho Masombuka and Tshepang Tlhapane

CLOSE relatives of former president Nelson Mandela were locked in a second meeting at his home in Qunu late yesterday afternoon.

An earlier meeting arranged by his eldest daughter, Makaziwe, was held at Madiba’s rural home in Qunu yesterday morning to discuss “urgent family matters”, according to News24.

The meetings followed an urgent call reportedly made by Mandela’s children and are believed to be about his present state of health.

According to the Vancouver Sun, the widespread assumption was that the first meeting – which was said to have included a visit to the family cemetery plot by one of Mandela’s grandsons – was convened to discuss funeral arrangements and the protracted grieving process and celebration of his life that are likely to follow when he dies.

City Press tweeted that Mandela’s grandson, Ndaba, was seen at what is believed to be his grandfather’s gravesite, situated inside the yard of the Qunu residence, about 500m from the main house.

At one stage in the morning, five cars were seen at the gravesite where work was being done, according to City Press Online. Others were also believed to have visited it.

Ndaba spent 20 minutes at the site and left four other cars behind, the report said. A military helicopter was also seen just before noon hovering over the Mandela home.

The family landed at the Mthatha Airport in an eight-seater plane yesterday, the Dispatch Online reported.

Mandela’s daughter, Zenani, was in the company of his granddaughter, Ndileka, Ndaba and also Public Service and Administration Minister and close family friend Lindiwe Sisulu.

Also with them was SANDF General Thanduxolo Mandela, it said.

The family, in a visibly sombre mood, was quickly whisked away from the airport in two SUVs and rushed to Qunu. Another grandson, Mandla, and Chief Bhovulengwe of the Abathembu royal council, were among those at the homestead. Mandla, the chief of Mvezo, could not be reached for comment yesterday.

UDM leader and family friend Bantu Holomisa arrived at the airport earlier in the morning on another flight.

 “I am in Mthatha to attend my party’s meetings this weekend,” he said.

However, he was among those who left the house in Qunu after the meeting. Shortly afterwards a people were seen pruning the vegetation at what is believed will be Mandela’s final resting place, according to the Daily Dispatch.

Throngs of journalists and photographers lined up along the fence for a glimpse of what was happening.

TV crews and journalists had been camped outside the house on the opposite side of the N2 highway as the meeting took place. Locals, who have grown used to the sight of TV crews since Mandela was admitted to hospital over two weeks ago, carried on with their daily activities as photographers and videographers lined the highway to get pictures and footage.

An employee at Mthatha’s tourism office said “most” bed and breakfast establishments and hotels in the town were “booked out”.

Responding to questions at a briefing on US President Barack Obama’s visit to South Africa, starting on Friday, International Relations Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane said yesterday Mandela would be disappointed to hear that life had stopped because he was sick. “He would want us to continue fighting until all South Africans have access to basic services.”

She said although they continued to pray for Mandela’s recovery, “we are realistic about his age”.

Obama would not visit Mandela in hospital as “in our tradition, when people are ill, we try to give them space to recover”.

At the Medi-Clinic Heart Hospital in Pretoria where Mandela remains critical, businessman Calvern Hugo released about 60 doves. He said it was the least he could do to honour Mandela for fighting for freedom.

“It symbolises what Madiba did for us as a nation, how he set us free as a nation. We are really appreciative of what he did for us,” he said.

Later on, a bus full of trainee police officers from the Pretoria West police college brought flowers.

Brigadier Noma Binqela said this was their way of showing their appreciation and “to leave something behind that symbolises that we were here”.

Flamboyant businessman Kenny Kunene also left a bunch of flowers in a glass vase with two cards, one from him and the other from his family. The card from Kunene read “To the father of the nation, Nelson Mandela, we love you Tata”.

Among family members who visited Mandela yesterday were his former wife Winnie Madikizela-Mandela and daughter Zindzi.

Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town Thabo Makgoba, former Reserve Bank governor Tito Mboweni and Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula accompanied by SANDF Chief General Solly Shoke were also there.

The presidency said yesterday afternoon Mandela’s condition was unchanged.

“Doctors continue to do their best to ensure his recovery, well- being and comfort,” it said.

President Jacob Zuma also sent a message to the public: “We must support him and support his family.”

To mark Mandela’s approaching 95th birthday, Zuma said: “Let us make it the biggest Mandela Day ever on the 18th of July, focusing on doing good all over the country.” – Additional reporting by Sapa

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