South Africa

Police, workers exhume Mandela’s children

By Reuters 4 July 2013

Workers armed with pick-axes and a court order broke into the compound of Nelson Mandela's grandson on Wednesday to exhume the remains of three of the anti-Apartheid hero's children, a new twist in a row that has split South Africa's most famous family. By YVONNE BELL.

Within hours of a ruling against Mandla Mandela by the high court in Mthatha, police and hearses arrived at Mandla’s complex in the nearby village of Mvezo, where the three Mandela offspring are buried.

The grey palisade gates blocking the road were forced open in front of a scrum of photographers and cameramen.

The three bodies were initially laid to rest in the family cemetery in Qunu, the village where Mandela – now 94 years old and critically ill in hospital – spent most of his childhood.

Two years ago the were moved by Mandla to Mvezo, where he serves as the official head of the clan.

In a court affidavit filed against Mandla last week, Mandela’s eldest daughter, Makaziwe, argued for an urgent hearing, saying her father was in a “perilous” condition and breathing with the aid of life-support, local media said.

“The anticipation of his impending death is based on real and substantial grounds,” the City Press newspaper quoted the court papers as saying.

Mandla has not made clear why he moved the remains the 20 km to Mvezo, where Mandela was born, but many South Africans believe it is part of a campaign to ensure the country’s first black president is buried there.

Mandla has already built a visitor centre at Mvezo and a memorial to his grandfather. Last week, a faction of the family led by Makaziwe sought a court order compelling the bodies to be returned to Qunu.

Mandla, a 39-year-old Member of Parliament for the ruling African National Congress (ANC), was not present when a posse of police, workmen and undertakers entered the Mvezo complex to carry out the court order.

However, a statement released by his office said he would not stand in their way.

“Nkosi Zwelivelile has on numerous occasions indicated that he is not against the repatriation of the remains in question,” the statement said, calling Mandla by his official clan title. It also condemned “a lot of allegations and dirt thrown in his direction”.

Makaziwe was present at Mvezo but did not talk to reporters, who were pushed back by police. After the court decision, her only words to reporters were: “This is a private family matter.”

The three Mandela children buried in Mvezo are an infant girl who died in 1948, a boy, Thembi, who died in a car crash in 1969, and Makgatho, who died of an AIDS-related illness in 2005. In all, Mandela fathered six children from his three marriages. DM

Photo: A convoy of police and funeral vehicles approaches the home of Mandla Mandela, a grandson of ailing former South African President Nelson Mandela, following a court hearing clearing the way to remove the remains of the former leader’s children from his property in Mvezo, the birthplace of Nelson Mandela, in the Eastern Cape of South Africa July 3, 2013. A judge ordered Nelson Mandela’s grandson Mandla to exhume the bodies of three of the anti-apartheid leader’s children on Wednesday and return them to their original graves, the latest twist in a dispute that has divided South Africa’s most famous family. REUTERS/Siegfried Modola


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