Mandela: Family Fight Over Grave
Family members of South Africa’s icon, Nelson Mandela have held a tense meeting in his ancestral village of Qunu to discuss his final resting place.
According to reports from South Africa, family members are torn between his grandson Mandla, who wants him buried at his Mvezo birthplace, and the rest, who feel that his wish to be buried next to his children should be respected.
According to the Star newspaper, the ibhunga – the meeting held on Tuesday to discuss a significant family matter – was attended by family members, United Democratic Movement leader, Bantu Holomisa and Minister of Public Service and Administration Lindiwe Sisulu.
Also in attendance were Chief Bhovulengwe of the Thembu royal council, Mandela’s daughters Makaziwe and Zenani, and Mandla and his brother Ndaba.
The Star reported that Mandla had exhumed the bodies of three of Mandela’s children by Evelyn, his first wife, and reburied them in Mvezo.
The chieftain had moved his father Makgatho; his aunt Makaziwe, who died in 1948 at only nine months; and uncle Thembekile, who was killed in a car accident in 1969, to his Mvezo traditional authority, where they were reburied.
Makgatho died of an Aids-related illness in 2005.
“This is making it impossible for Mandela to be buried next to his children because they are buried in Mvezo. Mandela is going to be buried in Qunu. Mandla did this without consulting the elders,” a source said.
The row over Mandela’s final resting place erupted about the time many South Africans are giving up hope about Mandela’s possible survival from the lung infection that has kept him in the hospital since 8 June.
Cape Town Archbishop Thabo Makgoba visited Pretoria’s Mediclinic Heart Hospital late Tuesday to pray with wife Graca Machel “at this hard time of watching and waiting.”
The archbishop’s prayer seemed to echo a growing feeling of inevitability about Mandela’s condition that is increasingly voiced by South Africans, to whom he remains a beacon of moral authority, even though he stepped back from public life a decade ago.
“Grant Madiba eternal healing and relief from pain and suffering,” the prayer said.
“Grant him, we pray, a quiet night and a peaceful, perfect, end.”
Emotional crowds also gathered outside the hospital where Nelson Mandela lay in critical condition Wednesday. A candlelight vigil was held Tuesday for the iconic leader, regarded by many as the father of the new South Africa. This morning, singing supporters massed outside the Pretoria hospital where the 94-year-old anti-apartheid hero was fighting for his life.
“We have been so united, blacks and whites together. That’s the thought of Mandela in us,” said Lerato Boulares, 35, who was singing hymns at the entrance of the Mediclinic Heart Hospital.
Proteas, the national flower of South Africa, and red and yellow roses lined the bottom of a wall decorated with messages wishing Mandela well.
Mandela was hospitalised on 8 June with a stubborn lung infection dating from his 27 years locked up on the notorious Robben Island and in other apartheid prisons.
According to local media, elders from Mandela’s Thembu clan were due to visit the Nobel Peace laureate today as his “Rainbow Nation” comes to terms with the increasing frailty of the man fondly known by his clan name Madiba.
The elders want to visit Mandela to “discuss what should be done,” an unnamed local chief told The Times newspaper, alluding to disagreement among family members over his burial site.
A makeshift campsite has sprung up in front of the hospital as international television crews descend on South Africa awaiting word on Mandela’s health, competing with his supporters for space on the pavement.
“I pray for him, every day, every morning so he must not die now,” said Folashade Olaitan, a Nigerian.
School children brought a poster they had drawn with the words “We love u Tata (father).”