Rebury bodies of Nelson Mandela's children, judge says

By The Rainbow

A South African court on Wednesday ruled that the remains of three children of Nelson Mandela should be reburied at the former president's rural home village, following a bitter family dispute over the graves.

In extraordinary scenes, South African television broadcast pictures of hearses arriving to transport the remains of the three back to Qunu shortly after the ruling, although it was unclear whether the exhumation had begun.

The court battle centred on a decision two years ago by Mandla Mandela, Mr Mandela's grandson, to remove the remains from a cemetery in Qunu and rebury them in Mvezo, where his grandfather was born. Both villages are in Mr Mandela's home province of the Eastern Cape.

The squabble became public last week when more than a dozen other members of the Mandela family filed a suit in court to have the remains returned to Qunu as Mr Mandela's condition deteriorated. It is reported that Mr Mandela, who remains in a critical condition in hospital in Pretoria, would like to be buried in Qunu.

The court in Mthatha, the provincial capital, initially ruled that the remains should be reburied in the village, but Mandla, who is a chief in Mvezo, had contested the decision.

The South African Press Association quoted court documents as saying the health of Mr Mandela, South Africa's iconic first black president, was 'perilous'.

'The anticipation of his impending death is based on real and substantial grounds,' Sapa reported.

The unseemly spat has focused attention on tensions among the Mandelas and exacerbated concerns that unseemly battles could break out over Mr Mandela's estate and risk tarnishing his legacy.

Judge Lusindiso Pakade was quoted by Sapa as describing Mandla's actions as 'scandalous' and 'vicious'.

Senior officials in the ruling African National Congress, which Mr Mandela led to a historic election victory at the first democratic vote in 1994, have spoken out about their concerns over the public dispute.

But even as anxious South Africans wait for updates on Mr Mandela's health, the legal battles may not be over.

A police spokesman said on Tuesday that members of the Mandela family had filed a criminal complaint against Mandla for tampering with a grave. Police will investigate the claims before filing their findings to a state prosecutor who will decide if any criminal charges are brought.

A spokesman for Mandla released a statement in which he said he was 'disappointed that to date he has not been granted an opportunity to respond to the court order granted against him'.

The statement said he would abide by the court's decision, but added that he 'has had a lot of allegations and dirt thrown in his direction by all sorts of individuals baying for a few minutes of fame and media attention at his expense'.