By Tony Ubani, in South Africa
Nelson Mandela canceled plans to attend the opening game of the 2010 World Cup Friday after his 13-year-old great-granddaughter was killed in a car crash.
The Nelson Mandela Foundation said Zenani Mandela, who became a teenager a few days ago, died in a one-car accident after attending Thursday eveningâ€™s World Cup kickoff concert at the Orlando Stadium in Soweto, near Johannesburg.
The foundation later confirmed Mandela would not attend the World Cup opening ceremony and first game in Johannesburg, dashing hopes the frail 91-year-old former president would make a rare appearance. Mandela and his family were â€œtorn upâ€ by the accident, the foundation said at its Johannesburg office.
â€œMr. Nelson Mandela this morning learnt of the tragic death in an accident of his great granddaughter Zenani Mandela,â€ foundation spokesman Sello Hatang said, reading from a prepared statement. â€œIt would therefore be inappropriate for him to personally attend the FIFA World Cup opening celebrations.â€
â€œWe are sure that South Africans and people all over the world will stand in solidarity with Mr. Mandela and his family in the aftermath of this tragedy.â€
Johannesburg Metro police spokeswoman Edna Mamonyane said the driver of the car, a man, had been arrested and charged with drink-driving. Mamonyane said the driver, who police would not name, could also face culpable homicide charges.
â€œThe Metro police found that he was drunk,â€ Mamonyane said. â€œHe lost control of the vehicle and it collided with a barricade.â€
Police spokesman Govindsamy Mariemuthoo, who earlier said the driver would appear in court for a preliminary hearing Friday, said that had been postponed for more investigations, and that the driver was not being held. Mariemuthoo said that was not unusual.
â€œItâ€™s a decision of the prosecutor,â€ he said. The Mandela foundation denied reports that the former presidentâ€™s ex-wife Winnie Madikizela-Mandela was in the car, but said she was treated in hospital for shock after being told of the fatal accident, and she was discharged after a few hours.
She later attended the opening ceremony, with her two daughters. FIFA president Sepp Blatter wrote to Mandela to â€œconvey the condolences of the entire football family.â€
President Jacob Zuma, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, who was in South Africa to lead his countryâ€™s delegation to the opening ceremony, and South Africaâ€™s governing African National Congress party also offered condolences.
Zenani, who celebrated her 13th birthday Wednesday, was one of the anti-apartheid iconâ€™s nine great-grandchildren.