Nelson Mandela retreats to Qunu

15 July 2011 - 01:38 By SINO MAJANGAZA
Nelson Mandela
Nelson Mandela
Image: Debbie Yazbek

Former president Nelson Mandela has returned to Qunu, outside Mthatha, ahead of his 93rd birthday on Monday.

Mandela arrived on a military medical aircraft at the Mthatha Airport just after 2.30pm, to a reception that included a motorcade consisting of traffic authority vehicles, police and VIP protection unit members and ambulances.

Among those present to receive Mandela at the airport were members of his medical team, General Zola Dabula, head of clinical services in the SANDF, and Mthatha Hospital Complex's head of clinical services, Dr Mbuyiselo Madiba.

Security was tight at the airport with security barring anyone from taking pictures "for security reasons" before the arrival of Madiba.

Reporters were told that photographs could not be taken, even with a cellphone. This was confirmed by a senior member of the VIP protection unit.

When Dabula arrived and was introduced to the reporters, he "politely" asked them to leave the premises immediately.

"I do not care whether you are a re reporter from SABC or the Daily Dispatch. Not anyone can do a Mandela story, so I will ask you gentlemen to leave," Dabula said.

Soon after Mandela landed in a blue and white aircraft, he was whisked away from the airport by his security detail.

The frail former statesman was escorted to his Qunu home in a slow-moving convoy of 12 vehicles, including two ambulances, with traffic officers at hand to close roads for ease of passage.

The convoy moved from the airport to join the N2 national road which passes by the Mandela homestead at Qunu.

It is the second time that Mandela has visited his rural home since he was discharged from hospital earlier this year.

He spent a week there in May when his family exhumed the remains of his children.