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Mandela family gathers in Qunu to brief elders

Sapa

Close relatives of former president Nelson Mandela and chiefs of the Abathembu royal family have gathered at his home in Qunu, in the Eastern Cape.

Nelson Mandela's family have gathered at his homestead. (AFP)

The gathering on Tuesday followed an urgent call reportedly made by his children, a South African Press Association correspondent reported.

Among those who arrived at the homestead were Mandla Mandela, Thanduxolo Mandela, Ndaba Mandela and Ndileka Mandela. Also present was chief Bhovulengwe of the Abathembu royal council.

The meeting had yet to start by 10.30am. It was delayed because some family members were not aware of the meeting and attempts were then made to contact them.

No family members were seen at the hospital on Tuesday. Mandela's only visitors were his medical team, who arrived shortly after 8am.

Napilisi Mandela, an elder in the Mandela family, confirmed that the meeting would go ahead as planned and was called to discuss delicate matters pertaining to the anti-apartheid icon.

Napilisi Mandela usually presides over the family's meetings and rituals.

Another close relative, Silumko Mandela, said final arrangements for the meeting were still being made.

"Many of us in the village were not aware and we were only told this morning, so a number of Mandela elders still need to be transported to Qunu for the meeting," said Silumko Mandela.

Mandela on Tuesday spent his third day in a critical condition, and his 18th day in total in a hospital in Pretoria.

Two dove breeders from Johannesburg released about 100 doves outside the hospital in an apparent plea for peace in South Africa once Mandela dies. One of the breeders, Thomas Coutts, told the Mail & Guardian the doves also symbolised South Africa's affection for Mandela. 

"He gave us our freedom and peace. We pray for peace and prosperity even after he dies. This is our way of showing our gratitude to him," Coutts said.

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