Why Mandelas rushed to court
» Madiba’s health ‘precarious’
» That’s why kids’ remains are being reburied in Qunu
» Mandla isolated
Former president Nelson Mandela’s “precarious” health was the motivation for an urgent court application that has isolated Madiba’s heir, chief Mandla Mandela, from the rest of his family.
City Press can reveal that Mandela’s declining health was cited in the Mthatha High Court as the main reason why the remains of his three children – Makgatho, Thembekile and Makaziwe – should urgently be exhumed and returned to Qunu.
The three are children from Madiba’s marriage to Evelyn Mase. Makgatho, Mandla’s father, died of an Aids-related illness in 2005.
Mandela’s family, including his ex-wife Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, told the court Madiba’s death was “imminent”.
They want the remains of his children to be returned from Mvezo, Madiba’s birthplace where Mandla reburied them in 2011, before Madiba can be laid to rest next to them.
On Friday afternoon, Judge Lusindiso Pakade issued an interim order interdicting Mandla from preventing the reburial and from interfering with the process, which was expected to be concluded in the next few days.
Mandla was also ordered to pay the legal costs of the hearing, despite not attending it.
Mandla met with his laywer yesterday, but his spokesperson Freddy Pilusa said Madiba’s heir won’t oppose the ruling.
The dramatic family feud that has pitted the entire Mandela clan against Mandla, the chief of Mvezo, burst into the open after a tense family meeting in Qunu on Tuesday.
The meeting was called by Madiba’s eldest living child and Mandla’s aunt, Makaziwe, two days after President Jacob Zuma announced Mandela’s condition was critical.
At the meeting, Mandla was admonished for not having sought permission from the family for the 2011 reburials and was told to release the remains to be transported back to Qunu.
Yesterday, Verne Harris, the director at the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, said Madiba told him many times that he wanted to be buried in Qunu.
“Madiba spoke to centre staff members about this matter between 2005 and 2009.”
Harris said Madiba told them that he wanted to be buried in the family graveyard, but said he and his family had discussed the matter and “they persuaded me to be buried at another site very close to here that is more accessible to the public”.
On Tuesday, following the confidential family meeting, elders – men only – visited the family gravesite in Qunu, about 500m from Mandela’s house.
The purpose of the visit to the gravesite, according to a source, was to appeal to the ancestors to spare Mandela from his pain and suffering. Madiba’s parents, his mother, Nosekeni, and father, Mphakanyiswa, are buried at the family gravesite in Qunu.
City Press visited the gravesite on Wednesday and saw the two graves standing prominently in the freshly cleaned site.
On Tuesday, Makaziwe Mandela approached the chief of Qunu, Nkosikazi Nokwanele Balizulu, for permission to exhume the remains in Mvezo and rebury them in Qunu.
In an interview with City Press, Balizulu said she had granted this permission.
“Though I don’t know when this will happen, they have made a request and I have agreed to it. I gave the letters to a funeral parlour they had appointed as per their instructions,” said Balizulu.
“I agreed that the remains should be brought back. I don’t have a problem with that. If anything, I had a problem with how they were dug out so disrespectfully,” she said.
Balizulu said Mandla had not sought permission from her for the 2011 exhumation and she would have been informed if “uTatomkhulu (Nelson Mandela) . . . had given consent”.
“He (Mandla) just went to the gravesite and dug up the remains. People in the village even refused to be part of the process because it had been done in such an undignified manner.”
She said the reburial “has not only created tensions in the Mandela family, but has displeased Madiba and invoked the wrath of the ancestors. The family is aware of this, hence the meeting on Tuesday”.
A source close to the case said Mandla tried to be “clever” by taking the remains of Madiba’s children to Mvezo.
“But Mandela didn’t only say he wanted to be buried next to his children, but that it should happen in Qunu.”
The source said burying Madiba in Mvezo was part of Mandla’s plan to turn his village into a tourist attraction.
Infrastructure in the village was upgraded recently.
“Mandla is totally isolated. He is on his own,” the source said.
On Thursday, the Mandelas hired attorney Wesley Hayes, who also acted against Mandla in legal proceedings launched against him by ex-wife Tando Mabunu-Mandela.
He filed court papers on behalf of 16 family members, including Mandla’s brother Ndaba, and instructed Port Elizabeth Advocate David Smith to argue the case before Pakade on Friday.
The case was heard in Pakade’s chambers and the court file has been under lock and key with the judge.
City Press was told the matter was treated as confidential and the court order was not for public consumption.
On Thursday, Zuma cancelled an official visit to Mozambique because of Mandela’s illness. Yesterday, Zuma said Madiba was in a critical but stable condition.
– Additional reporting by Charl Blignaut
Obama meets Mandela family
US President Barack Obama didn’t get to meet his hero Nelson Mandela yesterday, but briefly spoke to Madiba’s family at the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory in Houghton.
The US president said that his primary concern was for the comfort of Mandela and the wellbeing of his family, and not any photo opportunities.
“The last thing I want to do is to be in any way obtrusive,” Obama said en route to Pretoria.
At a joint press briefing yesterday, Obama said: “The outpouring of love that we’ve seen in recent days shows that the triumph of Nelson Mandela and this nation speaks to something very deep in the human spirit, the yearning for justice and dignity that transcends boundaries of race and class, and faith and country.”
Obama also called Mandela’s wife, Graça Machel, who released a statement after speaking to him.
“Having taken the time to telephone me to express their solidarity and meet our children, they have added a touch of personal warmth that is characteristic of the Obama family,” she said.
In Soweto yesterday afternoon, Obama said: “Think about 27 years in prison … There were dark moments that tested his faith in humanity, but he refused to give up.” – Athandiwe Saba and Sapa