Mthatha Airport is perfectly capable of handling the heavier air traffic expected ahead of Nelson Mandela’s funeral service this weekend, Eastern Cape Premier Noxolo Kiviet said on Thursday.
Mandela will be buried in his birthplace, Qunu, on Sunday.
In an interview with SAnews, Kiviet assured visitors that the airport, which has just been renovated, can accommodate any size of aircraft, with the only challenge being aircraft parking space.
Contingency plans had been made for some flights to drop off the dignitaries and fly to East London and Bisho, where parking space would be provided. The airport usually receives two planes from Johannesburg daily, but traffic is expected to increase this week ahead of the state funeral.
“It will be a drop off for some that do not have space,” Kiviet said. “There is no crisis, as we have just renovated this airport and so it meets all international safety standards.”
Security has also been tightened, and the army has effectively taken control of the airport. SAnews spoke to different police officers and army officials the airport who said they were guarding the facility around the clock.
“We want to ensure that nobody is compromised, all our dignitaries will be able to land safely and security around them is guaranteed,” Kiviet said.
Heavy rains and mist over Mthatha made it impossible for several flights to land at the airport on Wednesday, and flights were diverted to East London airport. It has been raining in Mthatha since Monday, but the clouds were starting to clear on Thursday, with the South African Weather Services saying clear weather could be expected by the weekend.
WATCH THE FUNERAL AT PUBLIC VIEWING AREAS
With thousands of people from around the province said to be planning to travel to Qunu this weekend, Kiviet urged them to rather watch the funeral at one of the 18 public viewing areas the government has set up across the province.
“We advise people not to even think of going to Qunu, because it’s going to be difficult for them.”
The government in Pretoria issued the same request earlier this week, calling on people rather to watch the funeral at home or at one of the public viewing areas set up countrywide.
Posted By Siphesihle Shaun Sekoati
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