Nelson Mandela family feud deepens as Mandla hits back

The case has shocked South Africa, as Gabriel Gatehouse reports

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Nelson Mandela's grandson Mandla has accused his relatives of being vengeful and seeking to control the former South African president's legacy.

His comments came as the bodies of three of Mr Mandela's children were being reburied at the anti-apartheid icon's home village of Qunu.

On Wednesday police exhumed the bodies from Mandla's homestead, after court action by his relatives.

Mr Mandela, 94, remains "critical but stable" in hospital, a new update says.

Analysis

Tragic drama is nothing new in the Mandela family but the bitterness in the views expressed by Nelson Mandela's grandson, Mandla, is the strongest public evidence of deep division and mistrust for some while.

And the significance is that it comes at this time when Nelson Mandela is in hospital in a critical condition.

In the aftermath of the remains of three of the former president's children being exhumed on a court order from the graves at his homestead where he had them buried, Mandla Mandela has accused family members behind the legal action of wanting to take revenge against him.

But he also clearly wanted to counter the impression that his own status and authority within the Mandela family has been undermined by his defeat in court.

His message was that he had been groomed for leadership and service by Nelson Mandela and he would not be bowed by any campaigns against him.

President Jacob Zuma issued a statement after visiting the hero of the fight against white minority rule in a Pretoria hospital.

"Madiba [Mr Mandela's clan name] is receiving the best medical care from a multi-disciplinary team of health professionals who are at his bedside around the clock," he said, again urging South Africans to celebrate his birthday later this month.

Correspondents say there has been a long-running battle over Mr Mandela's legacy, but it has intensified as his health has deteriorated.

Court papers filed last week revealed that he has been on life support. He was admitted on 8 June with a recurring lung infection.

His wife Graca Machel on Thursday said Mr Mandela was sometimes "uncomfortable, but he has never been in pain".

The dispute between Mandla and his relatives is linked to where Mr Mandela will be buried.

'Mandela's assets'

A group of the Mandela family, including his daughter Makaziwe and Mrs Machel, last week went to court, accusing Mandla of unlawfully relocating the graves of the three children to his village of Mvezo.

Mandla Mandela: "It seems like anyone and everyone can come and say 'I am a Mandela'"

Mandla had relocated the graves to ensure that his grandfather would be buried in Mvezo, Makaziwe said in an affidavit, South Africa's Mail & Guardian newspaper reports.

This was in defiance of the wishes of Mr Mandela, who wants to be buried in the nearby village of Qunu, where he grew up, she is quoted as saying.

The court ruled that the bodies should be re-interred in the family graveyard in Qunu.

A hearse and a large contingent of police arrived with the bodies for the reburial after forensic tests confirmed that they were Mr Mandela's children.

Some relatives had gathered for the reburial of the three children - Mr Mandela's eldest son Madiba Thembekile who died in a car accident in 1969, Mandla's father Makgatho, who died of an Aids-related illness in 2005; and the ex-president's first daughter, also called Makaziwe, who died as an infant in 1948.

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 bodies were taken from Qunu to Mvezo in 2011 by Mandla, who became chief of the village with Mr Mandela's backing in 2007.

In his first comments since losing the case, Mandla said he had brought the remains to Mvezo "temporarily", until Mr Mandela's wishes were known.

"In the past few days I have been the target of attacks from all sorts of individuals wanting a few minutes of fame and media attention at my expense," he said, AFP news agency reports.

"At the moment it seems that anyone and everyone can come and say 'I am a Mandela' and demand to be part of decision-making in this family. Individuals decided to jump on the Mandela wagon."

Makaziwe was trying to "sow divisions and destruction" in the family, Mandla said.

The court case was linked to a battle for control of Mr Mandela's financial assets, he said.

His family rivals were motivated by revenge as he had refused to support their legal case to oust three of Mr Mandela's aides from companies the ex-president had set up, Mandla added.

Makaziwe and another daughter of Mr Mandela, Zenani launched their case in April alleging that Mr Mandela's aides, including respected human rights lawyer George Bizos, had no right to be on the boards of two companies worth about $1.7m (£1.1m).

Mr Bizos said they would defend the action.

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