Nelson Mandela’s family sought criminal charges of grave tampering against the former South African president’s oldest grandson today amid an escalating row linked to the eventual burial site of the ailing anti-apartheid hero. The grandson Mandla allegedly had the remains of three of Mandela’s children moved from the revered leader’s ancestral village of Qunu in 2011 without the rest of the family’s consent.
Mandela,who remains critically ill in what is now his fourth week in hospital,had expressed his wish to be buried in Qunu,and his daughters want to have the children’s remains transferred so they can be together. A complaint of tampering with a grave was made against Mandla today by family members at a police station near the southern city of Mthatha,police spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Mzukisi Fatyela told AFP.
“It was sent to the senior public prosecutor for a decision whether to prosecute or not.” Mandla is fighting a court order to return the remains to Mandela’s ancestral village of Qunu,where the Nobel peace laureate’s parents are also interred at the family gravesite. A court in Mthatha ordered Mandla to transfer the remains to Qunu by 3:00 pm (1300 GMT) on Wednesday.
Mandla’s lawyers,however,asked the court today to rescind the order,arguing that he was not served with the relevant papers. A final ruling is expected on Wednesday. Previously the grandson has argued that Mandela should be buried at his rural birthplace Mvezo. Rather than accept the title himself,Mandela chose his now 39-year-old grandson to be chief of Mvezo in the Eastern Cape six years ago.
Mandla has since overseen change including a new brick-paved road which has transformed the journey to the village. A museum currently comprises a tiny outdoor display. But an impressive collection of tourism-oriented thatched buildings are under construction alongside offices of the traditional council and a conference center. The court order to return the remains was issued in response to a request by more than a dozen relatives of the revered leader,including his three daughters.
The name of Mandela’s wife Graca Machel was also seen on a list of applicants at the court. Her spokeswoman declined to comment. The disputed remains were of 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 in 2005.