GRAHAMSTOWN was a hive of activity yesterday as the City of Saints counted down the hours to the start of the National Arts Festival.
With the nation and the world concerned about the health of Nelson Mandela, festival chief executive Tony Lankester yesterday assured the thousands of people who made the annual pilgrimage to the event that the 11-day-long arts extravaganza would continue – even if South Africa’s first democratically elected president, Nelson Mandela, died.
“The show will go on,” he confirmed at the launch yesterday.
Although acting mayor Pierre Ranchod admitted the town had experienced infrastructure problems in recent years, plans had been made with neighbouring towns to truck in potable water if needed.
He said the army, fire departments and nearby municipalities had committed themselves to help if water supplies were interrupted.
Assurances had also been made by various municipal departments that checks had been made to avoid infrastructure breakdowns. “The municipality is 100% ready for any eventuality … electricity outages, water disasters – we are 100% ready.”
Addressing a media conference yesterday, Sport, Recreation, Arts and Culture MEC Xoliswa Tom said it was significant the official opening on Wednesday night coincided with the 55th anniversary of the Kliptown gathering to sign the Freedom Charter.
Pointing out how the arts had played an integral part in the struggle for liberation, Tom also said they had also played a key part in building democracy after the dawn of the new South Africa.
“From that long walk in 1955 to now in 2013, the journey has not yet ended.
“We are a nation that still has the enormous responsibility of ensuring that every child in the country will have the opportunity to learn to play a musical instrument or have the opportunity to paint or to stand in front of an audience and to read his or her own poetry.”
Cash registers started turning as the town and accommodation establishments started filling up.
Mad Hatters coffee shop owner Phil McDougal said he was “cautiously optimistic” of doing good business.