Remains exhumed from Nelson Mandela grandson's homestead

Police approach Mandla Mandela's homestead

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The remains believed to be of three of Nelson Mandela's children have been exhumed from a property belonging to his grandson, Mandla Mandela.

They have been taken from Mvezo in South Africa's Eastern Cape Province to a funeral parlour in nearby Mthatha, Lt Col Mzukisi Fatyela told the BBC.

It comes hours after a court ruled the remains should be removed for reburial in a nearby family graveyard.

Mandla moved the remains in 2011, allegedly without the family's consent.

Lt Col Fatyela said forensic investigations would be carried out on the exhumed remains in Mthatha.

Nelson Mandela remains critically ill in hospital suffering from a recurring lung infection.

The ANC Gauteng Women's League sing outside Mr Mandela's hospital

Court papers filed last week reveal that Mr Mandela has been on a life support machine, South Africa's Mail and Guardian newspaper reports.

"Nelson Mandela's health is perilous. [An] affidavit will be provided from physicians that he is assisted in breathing by a life support machine," the paper quotes the documents filed by Mr Mandela's family last Thursday as saying.

President Jacob Zuma said on Monday that Mr Mandela's condition remained critical but had stabilised, and he urged South Africans to plan for his 95th birthday on 18 July.

Forensic investigations

Analysis

Behind the drama in the High Court in Mthatha over the moving of the remains of three of Nelson Mandela's late children from Qunu to Mvezo and now back again lies a struggle for authority within the divided Mandela family - amid the increasing frailty of the family patriarch.

With the court ruling going against Nelson Mandela's grandson Mandla - heir apparent, he is often called - the question is whether his influence and authority have been undermined.

It has been suggested by some traditional elders here that the feuding has disturbed the spirit of the ailing former president when it should be at peace.

One thing is sure. There is a stark contrast between what US President Barack Obama called "the current outpouring of love for Nelson Mandela" as he lies in his hospital bed, and the sorry saga played out before the cameras in court here.

The former president has said he wants to be buried in the family graveyard in the village of Qunu, where he spent several years as a child and mostly lived after he retired.

A court last Friday granted 16 members of the Mandela family an order for the remains to be exhumed and moved from Mandla Mandela's homestead in Mvezo, the former president's birthplace, to nearby Qunu, 22km (14 miles) away.

But Mandla Mandela, who was appointed as chief of Mvezo by his grandfather, went to court to challenge it.

On Wednesday, the Mthatha High Court confirmed its initial decision and said the exhumations should take place - despite an appeal lodged by Mandla Mandela, which reports said the High Court refused to hear.

Police and a bailiff arrived at his property on Wednesday afternoon accompanied by Mr Mandela's daughter Makiziwe, the BBC's Gringo Wotshela in Mvezo reports, breaking down the gates with an axe.

Nelson Mandela's children

With Evelyn Mase:

  • Thembekile born 1945, died 1969
  • Makaziwe born 1947, died aged nine months
  • Makgatho born 1950, died 2005
  • Makaziwe, born 1954

With Winnie Madikizela-Mandela:

  • Zenani born 1959
  • Zindziswa born 1960

The remains are those of Makgatho Mandela, Mandla's father who died from Aids-related diseases in 2005, and Makgatho's siblings, Thembekile, who was killed in a car accident in 1969, and Makaziwe, Nelson Mandela's first daughter, who died when she was nine months old.

The BBC's Pumza Fihlani in Johannesburg says Mandla Mandela's plans to open a heritage centre dedicated to his grandfather in Mvezo, in the former site of the graves, have left a bitter taste among many within the family.

Some family members have also laid a criminal complaint against him for illegal grave tampering.

The police told the BBC on Tuesday they would investigate such allegations and a public prosecutor would then decide whether to press charges.

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