Mandla: Urgency around Mandela's health 'non-existent'

A hearse arrived in Mvezo to transport the remains of Mandela family members. (Delwyn Verasamy, M&G)

A hearse arrived in Mvezo to transport the remains of Mandela family members. (Delwyn Verasamy, M&G)

Mandla Mandela insisted in court papers on Wednesday that he would not interfere with Nelson Mandela's burial site unless there was no specific instruction in the former statesman's will regarding where he wanted to be buried.

This is contrary to Makaziwe Mandela and others' claim that Nelson Mandela's last will and testament states that he wants to be buried in Qunu.

But he claimed that the "urgency" set out in Makaziwe's affidavit – that Nelson Mandela's health was "perilous" – was "simply non-existent". The affidavit claims Nelson Mandela is on life support.

Mandla Mandela told the court on Wednesday: "The burial place will be determined by his [Nelson Mandela's] last will and testament. If there are no express directions in that document the duty falls on me as the eldest surviving male descendent."

But Mandla Mandela said he would only exercise that right with discretion with advice from other relevant persons including Machel, various royal houses, and the South African government.

"I admit that I do not have the right to determine where my father's brother and sister are to be buried. But I am entitled to determine where my father [Magkato Mandela] is buried," he said.  

Grave matters
Meanwhile, the remains of three of Nelson Mandela's children will most likely be buried in the former statesman's home town of Qunu in the Eastern Cape on Thursday. On Wednesday night, the Eastern Cape High Court in Mthatha shot down Mandela's grandson Mandla Mandela's last attempt to stop the remains from being moved from his own home in Mvezo to Qunu.

Court papers filed this week revealed how Mandla Mandela moved the graves from Qunu to Mvezo, after falling out with Mandela's daughter, Makaziwe, and other members of the former statesman's family.

Makaziwe alleged that Mandla Mandela had felt isolated and cut off from the rest of the family around the time he allegedly moved the graves. She further alleged that Mandla was trying to "force" the burial of Nelson Mandela from Qunu, where he apparently wants to be buried, to Mvezo, for financial gain. He faces criminal charges of grave tampering.

Mandla Mandela called these allegations "vexatious". He is expected to hold a press conference at the Nelson Mandela Museum in Qunu on Thursday. He claimed he was not given a chance to air his side of the story in court when his rescission application was rejected by Judge Lusindiso Pakade.

Makaziwe Mandela succeeded this week in her application to the court to force Mandla to move the remains back. Makaziwe told the court that she brought the application in her name and the names of the other applicants, which include Nelson Mandela's wife, Graça Machel, but also in Nelson Mandela's own name.

"It has always been the desire of Nelson Mandela for his remains to be buried at his family's homestead in Qunu. In fact, this much is readily apparent to the general public and it has been widely reported in national and international newspapers," Makaziwe and others said.

Removal
On Wednesday afternoon, just hours after an initial court order, which upheld one handed down on Friday, ordering Mandla Mandela to return the remains to Qunu, the sherriff of the court arrived at Mvezo to move the remains.

Court officials used bolt cutters to open the gates to the plot where the remains were buried. The Mail & Guardian understands the remains were taken to Mthatha overnight for forensic testing.

Sarah Evans

Sarah Evans

Sarah Evans interned at the Diamond Fields Advertiser in Kimberley for three years before completing an internship at the Mail & Guardian Centre for Investigative Journalism (amaBhungane). She went on to work as a Mail & Guardian news reporter with areas of interest including crime, law, governance and the nexus between business and politics.  Read more from Sarah Evans

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