A SOUTH AFRICAN court has ordered that the graves of three of Nelson Mandela’s children be immediately returned to his childhood village, following a bitter family quarrel linked to the final resting place of the anti-apartheid hero.
The public row comes as the 94-year-old former political prisoner, who became South Africa’s first black president, lies critically ill in what is now his fourth week in hospital.
Mandela’s oldest grandson Mandla allegedly had the graves moved from Qunu, Mandela’s childhood home, to Mvezo, about 30 kilometres away, in 2011 without the rest of the family’s consent.
The former president has expressed his wish to be buried in Qunu, and his daughters want to have the children’s remains returned so they can be buried together.
A judge in the southern city of Mthatha upheld an earlier interim order for Mandla, 39, to return the remains to Qunu by this afternoon and instructed him to pay all legal costs.
Mandla’s legal team immediately lodged a fresh application to have the order rescinded.
“The application suspends everything. It means they can’t proceed with the order,” said Hymie Zilwa, one of Mandla’s lawyers.
He said that if family members attempted to move the remains themselves the grandson would apply for an urgent order to stop them.
The initial order was issued in response to a request by more than a dozen relatives of the revered leader, including his wife Graca Machel, two of his daughters and several grandchildren.
After the decision, several family members present in court stood up and hugged each other.
Mandela’s eldest daughter Makaziwe refused to comment on the ruling, saying “a private matter will remain private”.
The family is also seeking criminal charges of grave tampering against Mandla.
Previously the grandson has argued that Mandela should be buried at his birthplace Mvezo, where Mandla holds court as clan chief.