Remains exhumed from Nelson Mandela grandson's homestead

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Media captionPolice approach Mandla Mandela's homestead

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.

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Media captionThe 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

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.

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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