Mandela grandson to challenge family court ruling

Former president wishes to be buried next to his three offspring at a family plot in Qunu

Mandla Mandela, grandson of former South African President Nelson Mandela, sings during a church service near the home of the former president in Qunu.

Mandla Mandela, grandson of former South African President Nelson Mandela, sings during a church service near the home of the former president in Qunu.

Tue, Jul 2, 2013, 10:32


A dispute within Nelson Mandela’s family, which could determine where the anti-apartheid hero will be buried in the event of his death, has escalated in a South African court.

As Mr Mandela remained critical but stable in a Pretoria hospital, his eldest grandson Mandla challenged a court ruling obtained by other family members demanding the bodies of three of the former president’s children be returned to their original resting place.

Mr Mandela has always said he wishes to be buried next to his three offspring at a family plot in Qunu. But two years ago, without consulting the family, Mandla Mandela exhumed the bodies and moved them to his village 20km away from where he is believed to be planning a visitors’ attraction in memory of his grandfather.

Last Friday, the Mthatha High Court in Eastern Cape ordered that the bodies be returned to Qunu after an application by Mr Mandela’s eldest daughter Makaziwe and 15 other family members.


Challenged ruling
But Mandla Mandela, the former president’s eldest male heir, returned to the same court yesterday to challenge the ruling. While the court deemed the proceeding private, as they included sensitive details of Mr Mandela’s health, it is understood Ms Mandela and the other family members argued that the disturbance of the bodies breached traditional customs.

But clan leaders in Eastern Cape, where centuries-old beliefs still thrive, have lent Mandla Mandela some support, saying the matter should have been dealt with through family dialogue rather than the courts. A further hearing on the matter is to take place today.

As the family drama continued, the South African government said Mr Mandela’s condition remained unchanged, which was seen as a cause for modest optimism.

“We remind all South Africans to begin planning for Madiba’s birthday on the 18th July,” President Jacob Zuma said in a statement. “We must all be able to do something good for humanity on this day, in tribute to our former president.”

Mr Zuma, whose popularity rating – according to a poll yesterday – has dropped to an all-time low, has been stung by criticism of his decision to visit Mr Mandela last April while he was recovering at home from another hospital visit.


‘Visit insensitive’
Mr Mandela’s ex-wife Winnie Madikizela-Mandela described Mr Zuma’s visit in the glare of the media as “most insensitive” as it “compromised” Mr Mandela’s dignity. But the ANC shot back yesterday, describing her comments as regrettable, and saying she had never previously aired such concerns.

Prayers and vigils continued for Mr Mandela, who was admitted to the Pretoria Mediclinic Heart hospital with a lung infection on June 8th.

The latest group to pay homage outside was the South Africa Police Service, members of whom gathered for prayers and hymns.