Mandela burial spot row

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mandela village leaders Reuters Village leaders leave the house of former president Nelson Mandela in Qunu. Photo: Rogan Ward

Johannesburg - The family of Nelson Mandela have held a tense meeting to discuss his final resting place.

Three different sources close to the matter have told The Star the family are torn between his grandson Mandla, who wants him buried at his Mvezo birthplace, and the rest, who feel that his wish to be buried next to his children should be respected.

According to the sources, the ibhunga - the meeting held on Tuesday to discuss a significant family matter - was attended by family, United Democratic Movement leader Bantu Holomisa and Minister of Public Service and Administration Lindiwe Sisulu.

Also in attendance were chief Bhovulengwe of the abaThembu royal council, Mandela’s daughters Makaziwe and Zenani, and Mandla and his brother Ndaba.

The Star has reliably learnt that Mandla had exhumed the bodies of three of Mandela’s children by Evelyn, his first wife, and reburied them in Mvezo.

The chieftain had moved his father Makgatho; his aunt Makaziwe, who died in 1948 at only nine months; and uncle Thembekile, who was killed in a car accident in 1969, to his Mvezo traditional authority, where they were reburied.

mandela daughters Makaziwe Mandela (R) arrives with Tukwini (C) and Ndileka Mandela at a Pretoria hospital where their father Nelson Mandela is being treated. REUTERS

Makgatho died of an Aids-related illness in 2005.

“This is making it impossible for Mandela to be buried next to his children because they are buried in Mvezo. Mandela is going to be buried in Qunu. Mandla did this without consulting the elders,” a source said.

Mandla did not answer his phone when called for comment on Tuesday.

Holomisa would not be drawn into divulging what was discussed at the meeting.

“Call Makaziwe, she is the one who called that meeting,” he said.

Makaziwe said: “I don’t talk to The Star.”

It is understood that a defiant Mandla stormed out of the meeting, which also discussed Mandela’s health, before it was finished because the family were insistent that the Mandela children be taken back to their original burial ground.

The meeting started at about 11am and the family were seen leaving the Mandela home just before 2pm.

Villagers said the Mandela homestead had been a hive of activity on Tuesday morning.

“There have been a lot of cars going in and out,” said a source, who didn’t want to be identified.

He said he had seen people at the Mandela gravesite, but it was not clear what they were doing there.

“This seems like a very important meeting, judging by the number of cars that were going into the Mandela home.

“Since he got sick, there has never been so much activity. There was also a helicopter that was constantly flying over the residence.”

The Presidency said on Tuesday Mandela’s condition remained unchanged.

President Jacob Zuma urged that Madiba and his family be accorded the necessary sensitivity, dignity and privacy at this time.

At the Medi-Clinic Heart Hospital in Pretoria, the number of high-profile South Africans visiting Madiba increased on Tuesday.

Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town Thabo Makgoba left the hospital in an Audi SUV.

At the Celliers Street entrance, businessman Kenny Kunene arrived to place flowers and speak to the media.

After his visit, more Tshwane metro police officers arrived at the entry point. They cordoned off Celliers Street where it meets Park Street.

Tshwane mayor Kgosientso Ramokgopa arrived to check on the police officers and left after a brief discussion.

Businessman Calvern Hugo released about 60 white doves near the Celliers Street entrance in recognition of Mandela’s contribution to the country’s freedom.

Winnie Madikizela-Mandela arrived shortly after 12.30pm with her daughter Zindzi Mandela-Motlhajwa.

Meanwhile, US tennis star Serena Williams joined the tributes to Mandela.

The American, currently playing at Wimbledon, described Mandela as an amazing man from whom lessons could be learnt.

“It’s a really sad time I think for everyone. Meeting him was probably one of the best moments of my life, and it will be a great loss,” said the Wimbledon champion.

Additional reporting by Ntando Makhubu and Sapa

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