Nelson Mandela family feud: What is it about? (+video)
Nelson Mandela: In the latest chapter of an ongoing Mandela family feud, a court ruled that the bodies of three of Nelson Mandela's children must be moved from Mandela's birthplace back to the ailing former South African leader's hometown. Some who have been following the saga say the dispute is about greed.
In a macabre family feud fought as Nelson¬†Mandela¬†remained in critical condition, a South African court ruled Wednesday that the former president's grandson must return the bodies of the 94-year-old's three deceased children to their original burial site.
Mandela¬†is in "perilous" condition and on life support, according to an affidavit filed Friday and made public in the ruling Wednesday, according to a South African newspaper.
The judge's order means that grandson Mandla¬†Mandela¬†must reverse the action he took in 2011, when he moved the bodies from¬†Mandela's¬†hometown in Qunu to his birthplace of Mvezo, about 25 kilometers (15 miles) away. Mandla¬†Mandela¬†has authority in Mvezo as a tribal chief and has plans to create a¬†Mandela shrine, hotel and soccer stadium there.
The case has sparked a wide discussion here about family relations and inheritance.
Mandela, who was imprisoned for 27 years, remained in critical condition in the hospital Wednesday. He was admitted June 8.
South Africa's anti-apartheid hero said he wanted to be buried in Qunu and attended the burial of his son at the family plot there in 2005.
"It's an issue of greed, and everyone needs to be quite clear about that," said Charlene Smith, the author of three books on the former president, including "Mandela: In Celebration of a Great Life."
"Although he's been able to bring reconciliation to South Africa, he has this warring family," Smith said of Mandela. "He hasn't been able to bring peace at home."
The family divisions became public this week when 15¬†Mandela¬†members, including wife Graca Machel, pressed a court case to order Mandla¬†Mandela¬†to return the bodies to Qunu. The judge ordered the bodies to be reburied Wednesday afternoon, and a hearse entered the Mvezo compound shortly after the verdict.
The Mail and Guardian newspaper obtained the affidavit that said¬†Mandela's¬†health is "perilous" and that a life support machine is helping him breathe.
The court filing said the family members want to bury¬†Mandela¬†in earth "in which his descendant's remains lie."
The affidavit filed by daughter Makaziwe¬†Mandela¬†shows the family believes Mandla¬†Mandela¬†is trying to force the burial of¬†Mandela¬†in Mvezo for financial gain.
Mandla¬†Mandela¬†said in a statement Wednesday that he is not against the repatriation of the bodies and will abide by the court decision. But his legal team contends that the graves cannot be exhumed until an appeal to rescind the order is heard.
The case pitted the¬†Mandela¬†family members against Mandla¬†Mandela, who argued that as the family's eldest male he is entitled to move the graves. Upping the ante in the feud, a¬†Mandela¬†family member pressed criminal charges Tuesday against Mandla for tampering with a grave.
Mandela¬†had six children ‚ÄĒ four daughters and two sons ‚ÄĒ with two wives. Only his three eldest daughters remain alive. Mandla¬†Mandela¬†is the first-born grandson.
The graves are that of Makgatho¬†Mandela, who died in 2005 and is Mandla¬†Mandela's¬†father;¬†Mandela's¬†first daughter Makaziwe¬†Mandela, who died as an infant in 1948; and¬†Mandela's¬†second son Madiba Thembekile Mandela, who died in a car accident in 1969.
Many in South Africa hope that by moving the children's graves back to the¬†Mandela¬†family plot in Qunu, Nelson¬†Mandela¬†will now get his wish for a burial at Qunu.
"The reason why they had to do this in a rush-rush is because they are definite now that he is going to die. So he does not have to die without his dying wish (burial in Qunu) having been fulfilled," said Mlawu Tyatyeka, an expert on the Xhosa culture of¬†Mandela's¬†family.
"By the time they will bury¬†Mandela¬†they want to have everything in place."
The case over the graves is only a part of a larger family battle over how to use the¬†Mandela¬†name and the millions of dollars in wealth¬†Mandela¬†will leave behind.
There is a "House of¬†Mandela" wine label and two granddaughters are starring in a U.S. television reality show titled "Being¬†Mandela." Some family members are also trying to oust several old allies of the former president from control of two companies. That dispute is headed for the courts.
Wednesday's case has captivated a nation that has received only periodic updates on¬†Mandela's¬†health over the last 26 days, since¬†Mandela¬†was admitted to a hospital early on a Saturday morning.
The day after criminal charges were pressed against Mandla¬†Mandela¬†for tampering with a grave, one of South Africa's leading papers led with this dual-meaning headline: "Mandla in grave trouble."
Associated Press reporter Carley Petesch contributed to this report.