Nelson Mandela, the ailing former South African president, remained in critical condition today as a judge issued a ruling in his family's increasingly bitter feud over the burial site of his deceased children and control of Mandela's legacy.
The Eastern Cape High Court on Tuesday ordered the return of the remains of three of Mandela's children to his ancestral village, Qunu. A judge in the southern city of Mthatha ordered Mandela's eldest grandson,39-year old Nkosi Zwelivelile Mandela, known as Mandla,to transfer the remains by 15:00 on Wednesday. Mandla allegedly moved the graves to Mvezo without the rest of the family's consent in 2011.
Mandla is the head of the Mandela clan as the chief of the Mvezo district. Mvezo is the birthplace place of Nelson. Two years ago, Mandla ordered the exhumation of three of Nelson's children from the family burial plot in nearby Qunu, the village where Nelson Mandela has publicly stated he wants to be buried when he dies.
Mandla moved the bodies without the consent of his family to his complex in Mvezo where he is trying to build a tourist destination. The decision angered the local relatives as well as other tribal leaders in the area.
Local villagers in Qunu said that when the bodies were moved that it was done with the knowledge of "Tata" or "father" as they call Nelson Mandela, who is also known as Madiba.
Now, as the death of the elder statesman is looming--Mandela, 94, has been at the Pretoria Mediclinic Heart hospital since June 8--the fight over the reburial of these family members has become of public family feud with 16 members of the family going to court to force Mandla to return the remains to the plot in Qunu.
Led by the elder statesman's daughter, Makaziwe, an urgent family meeting was called in Qunu last weekend. It ended with Mandla storming out, forcing the family to take the court action. Warren Hayes, who is representing the family in legal proceeding, said they had no choice but to file a lawsuit after Mandla refused their request.
The family says they were only acting on behalf of the expressed wishes that Nelson Mandela wanted everyone buried together.
Mandla's spokesman, Freddy Pilusa, denied that the younger Mandela had any issues with repatriation – but said the issue should be decided among the family and not in court.
Today in Mthatha, at the Eastern Cape High Court, Judge Lusindiso Pakade ruled that the media would be allowed into the proceedings which continue this afternoon.
This court case is the latest embarrassing public dispute to be played out in public. Last month Makaziwe and her sister, Zenani, filed a lawsuit to try to regain control of the trust set up to handle Mandela's income from sales of art and images of the globally known leader.
The village elders and family members in Qunu are reportedly worried that the spirits of the ancestors have been angered by Mandla's actions, and that soul of the family patriarch will not rest peacefully if the family disputes are not resolved. Many South Africans believe the family's arguments are tarnishing the legacy of their beloved ex-president.