Officials were in the midst of moving the bodies of three of Nelson Mandela’s deceased children back to their original gravesites at the behest of a South African court order, NPR reports. Mandela’s grandson moved the bodies to a different location in 2011.
For years, a bitter family feud has raged in the Mandela family about the final resting place of three of Nelson Mandela’s children. South Africa’s News 24 reports that the bodies of three of Mandela’s children were buried in the anti-Apartheid leader’s hometown of Qunu for years. But in 2011, the grandson, Chief Mandla Mandela, removed the remains in the middle of the night and reburied them in Mandela’s birth village, Mvezo. Nelson Mandela himself, currently in critical condition and receiving life support, has repeatedly stated that he wishes to be buried alongside his children in Qunu, and he attended the burial of his oldest son in that village in 2005.
Mandla Mandela, however, currently acts as the head of the Mandela family and chief of their AbaThembu clan, and wishes to turn Mvezo into a tourist attraction, complete with a hotel, a Mandela shrine and even a soccer stadium. Mandla reportedly hopes to have Mandela himself buried in Mvezo after his death.
Now, the family feud has come to a head, as enraged members of the Mandela family filed a court order against Mandla Mandela earlier in the week, arguing that the remains Mandela’s children must be returned to their original gravesites while Nelson Mandela is still alive. A South African court agreed with the complaint and ordered that the bodies be returned to Qunu on Wednesday.
In the affidavit, members of the Mandela family accused Mandla Mandela of attempting to circumvent Nelson’s Mandela’s desire to be buried in Qunu. The affidavit also claimed that Mandla Mandela was motivated by profit and hoped to turn his grandfather's birthplace and proposed gravesite into a tourist attraction, the Los Angeles Times reports.
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“It is conceivable that such a heritage site has the potential to generate monetary gain. Indeed, there is evidence to suggest that the first respondent has already begun preparations at the Great Place in Mvezo, inclusive of construction buildings," the affidavit said, in reference to Mandla Mandela’s proposed resort and heritage center.
"The applicants [Mandela family], as custodians of the last will and testament of Nelson Mandela, will have duties to ensure his last wishes are carried out in the event of his demise,” the affidavit continues, according to the Los Angeles Times.
The remains are those of Mandela’s oldest son Makgatho Mandela, who died in 2005; Mandela’s first daughter Makaziwe Mandela, who died in 1948; and Mandela’s second son, Madiba Thembekile, who died in 1969. Three of Mandela’s children currently survive.