THE Eastern Cape provincial heritage celebrations were delayed for two hours yesterday at the Mngqesha Great Place outside King William's Town.
This after the venue was also booked for a soccer tournament for clubs there.
Department of Sports, Recreation, Arts and Culture (DSRAC) spokesman Manzi Vabaza blamed the delay on a misunderstanding between the organisers of the soccer tournament and provincial heritage celebrations.
Drama started when police arrived at the open fields adjacent to the great place to cordon off the area.
"The police wanted to cordon off the entire field so that it could be used as parking for the guests' vehicles.
"When they got there, there was a soccer tournament taking place at the grounds and the tournament organisers refused to postpone their event, saying it was planned a long time a go and that they had invited teams from outside the area," Vabaza said.
However, an intervention by local traditional leaders and government officials saved the day as it was agreed that the tournament takes place just next to the marquee hosting the heritage event.
Bongani Mrwebi, one of the soccer tournament organisers, said they had made prior arrangements and were not consulted about the Heritage Day event.
"Everyone knew that we would be hosting the tournament on the grounds on the day but no one ever consulted us to say there would be a provincial event on the same grounds," Mrwebi said.
Addressing scores of people, including Epainette Mbeki and traditional leaders, DSRAC MEC Xoliswa Tom said the government had positioned the year 2012 to profile and mainstream selfless contributions to secure the freedom enjoyed these days.
"We all have a responsibility to defend the massive gains of our freedom, because the freedom we are enjoying today did not come free, thousands of gallant sons and daughters of the African soil paid the ultimate price to secure this democracy.
"We are therefore gathered here today to pay homage to the fallen heroes and heroines of our liberation struggle and those that are still carrying the shield and the spear in defence of our hard- earned freedom and democracy," Tom said.
The MEC also revealed that her department was working closely with religious leaders to identify and develop religious heritage sites around the province, as they did with liberation heritage sites.
"There are many sites in this province that are associated with icons of religion whose massive contribution to the liberation struggle need to be conserved and told for the benefit of current and future generations," Tom said.
Tom also called on all to participate in the conservation, management and promotion of cultural heritage.