MTHATHA – As Nelson Mandela fights for his life in hospital, his relatives are pitted against each other in a legal battle, reportedly over where members of the family should be buried.

On Friday, sixteen members of the Mandela family brought an urgent application to a regional court, reportedly to force Mandela’s grandson Mandla to return remains of family members to a plot in the ancestral village where Mandela has said he wants to be buried.

Mandla, a local chief in nearby Mvezo, had exhumed the remains of three of Mandela’s children in Qunu in 2011 and brought them to his village, allegedly without the consent of the rest of the family.

“I have been instructed by the 16 family members including (daughters) Makaziwe and Zindzi to take action against Mandla,” the family lawyer Wesley Heyes said.

Heyes refused to comment on the reason for the legal tussle, but local media said it was about a long-running feud over the remains.

“We can’t say anything further due to the sensitivity of the case,” said Heyes.

The court was told that a sheriff delivered the paper to Mandla’s homestead and found the gates locked. The papers were nailed to the gate after several unsuccessful attempts to hand them over.

“The sheriff hooted and called Mandla on his phone, which was not answered,” said one of the Mandela lawyers David Smith.

Mandla’s spokesman Freddy Pilusa said he was not able to comment on the case.

“He hasn’t been served with those papers so he wouldn’t be able to comment.”

The controversial removal of graves has recently came into the spotlight following reported family squabbles over the final resting place of the ailing Mandela.

The hastily removed graves belonged to Mandela’s eldest son Thembekile who died in 1969, his nine-month-old infant Makaziwe who passed away in 1948, and Mandla’s own father Magkatho who died from an AIDS related illness in 2005.

The trio were reburied under the cover of darkness in Mvezo, in a ceremony overseen by Mandla.

The issue of the graves was also at the centre of a family meeting earlier this week.

On Thursday local media reported that Makaziwe, Mandela’s oldest daughter, was granted permission by a chief in Qunu to have the remains repatriated. Mandla had reportedly argued Mandela should be buried in Mvezo.(AFP)


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