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Visitors arrive at Mandela family gravesite

Sarah Evans, Sapa, Khuthala Nandipha

A few cars have been seen at the Mandela family gravesite in Qunu, while the relatives called an urgent meeting in the village to brief the elders.

A file image of Qunu, where former president Nelson Mandela is from. (Delwyn Verasamy, M&G)

While the former president's family is holding a meeting at his Qunu home, several cars have been seen at the Mandela family gravesite. The site is situated a few metres from Mandela's younger brother Morris's house, and just across the street from Madiba's Qunu home. The private gravesite is where all the Mandela family members are buried.

It is not clear at this stage what this delegation is doing at the site, but often in Xhosa custom, a family visits a gravesite when they sense that a member might soon join the ancestors, or to speak to the ancestors to spare them for a while longer.

The family, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, Public Service and Administration Minister Lindiwe Sisulu and United Democratic Movement leader Bantu Holomisa arrived in Qunu this morning for a "family briefing" that was rumoured to have been called by Makaziwe, Mandela's daughter.

Scores of journalist have been banned from crossing the N2 and restricted to parking across the street from the house.

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 family 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 visitors
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. – Additional reporting by Sapa


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