MTHATHA, South Africa (AFP) – A South African court on Tuesday ordered the return of the remains of three of Nelson Mandela’s children to his ancestral village, following a bitter family feud linked to the eventual burial site of the ailing anti-apartheid hero.
A judge in the southern city of Mthatha instructed Mandela’s eldest grandson Mandla to transfer the remains to Qunu by 3:00 pm on Wednesday.
Mandla allegedly had the graves moved to Mvezo, about 18 miles away, without the rest of the family’s consent in 2011.
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.
Mandela’s parents are also interred at the family gravesite in Qunu.
Previously the grandson has argued that Mandela should be buried at his birthplace Mvezo, where Mandla holds court as clan chief.
The court order was issued in response to a request by 16 relatives of the revered leader, including two daughters and several grandchildren.
“I now rule that the respondent complies with the order to return the remains by 3:00 pm on Wednesday,” said Judge Lusindiso Pakade.
The remains belonged to 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.
Mandla’s spokesman Freddy Pilusa told AFP on Monday that the grandson “has no issues with the repatriation of any of those remains. But obviously it has to be done by those people who have the authority to do so,” he added. Those things would have been decided in the family. But now they’re not in the family. They’re in the court.”
Pilusa said on Tuesday that he was unable to comment on the court ruling.
Mandela has three surviving children, and a host of grandchildren and great-grandchildren.