The exhumed remains of three of former South African president Nelson Mandela’s children at the center of an ugly family feud were due to undergo forensic tests yesterday before reburial in the ailing anti-apartheid hero’s childhood village.
The tests — to confirm that the remains are those of the three children — were expected to take about two hours in the city of Mthatha, police and a family member said.
“The remains will be taken for forensic tests and then after that they will be transported to Qunu for reburial,” police spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Mzukisi Fatyela said.
In dramatic scenes that unfolded in front of the world’s media on Wednesday, a sheriff forced open the gates to the estate of Mandela’s grandson Mandla with a pickaxe to allow three hearses to enter the property, where the disputed remains were moved in 2011, allegedly without the family’s consent.
The new twist in the macabre saga came hours after a court in the nearby city of Mthatha ordered Mandla, 39, to immediately move the graves back to Qunu, where Mandela grew up, from the grandson’s estate in the village of Mvezo about 30km away in the Eastern Cape Province.
Judge Lusindiso Pakade described the grandson’s actions as “scandalous.”
A family member said the relatives would meet yesterday to discuss the reburial.
“While we are waiting for the forensic tests, as a family we are going to meet to come up with the date of reburying these bones of our family members,” Mandela’s grandson Phumlani Mandela said.
The rift 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 has expressed his wish to be buried at his rural homestead at Qunu, and his daughters wanted the children’s remains to be returned so they can be buried together.
More than a dozen relatives of the revered leader, including his wife, Graca Machel, two of his daughters and several grandchildren, took Mandla to court over the dispute.
According to court documents submitted by the family on Friday to support their case, Nelson Mandela is in a “perilous” condition on life support, local media reported.
The disputed remains are of Nelson Mandela’s eldest son, Thembekile, who died in 1969, his nine-month-old infant Makaziwe, who died in 1948, and Mandla’s own father Makgatho, who died in 2005.
Mandla was due to hold a news conference yesterday to answer “allegations and dirt thrown in his direction,” his spokesman said.