Mandela's Grandson Ends Battle Over Burials

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JOHANNESBURG -- Mandla Mandela, the eldest grandson of the ailing Nelson Mandela, said Thursday that he would give up his battle with other members of his family over where to bury three of the former president's children and, eventually, Mr. Mandela himself.

"I will not challenge this further, it will serve no purpose," he said at a news conference at his compound in the small village of Mvezo in Eastern Cape Province that was broadcast on South African television.

He spoke as the South African presidency offered its latest update on Mr. Mandela, who has been treated at the Mediclinic Heart Hospital in the capital, Pretoria, since June 8 for a serious lung infection, saying he was still in "critical but stable" condition.

As Mr. Mandela, 94, the former South African president and anti-apartheid leader, remains in the hospital, the family dispute -- culminating in the spectacle of police officers breaking down a gate to a cemetery on Wednesday to exhume the bodies -- has riveted South Africans, but drawn criticism from the ruling African National Congress and others.

In 2011, the grandson ordered the transfer of the bodies from the nearby village of Qunu, where Mr. Mandela was raised, to his own compound in Mvezo, the village where Mr. Mandela was born.

The remains of the three family members -- Makaziwe Mandela, who died as an infant in 1948; Madiba Thembekile Mandela, who was killed in a car accident in 1969; and Mandla Mandela's own father, Makgatho Mandela, who died in 2005 -- were taken Wednesday from their unmarked graves in Mvezo to a nearby hospital, where local health officials conducted DNA tests Thursday to determine which body was which.

Finally, by late afternoon, the bodies were reburied in the Mandela family graveyard in Qunu.

Several members of Mr. Mandela's family members, including his eldest daughter, also named Makaziwe Mandela, had taken Mandla Mandela to court and charged that the bodies had been moved without their knowledge or consent.

A judge in the Eastern Cape High Court in Mthatha, near the villages of Qunu and Mvezo, ruled Wednesday that the bodies be returned to Qunu immediately, and turned down two appeals from Mandla Mandela.

"In the past few days I have been the subject of attacks from all sorts of individuals wanting a few minutes of fame and media attention at my expense," the grandson said at the news conference, criticizing several family members by name.

An affidavit filed in the Mvezo court case last Friday by the Mandela family maintained that Nelson Mandela was in "perilous" shape and connected to a life support machine.

But Mr. Mandela's wife, Graça Machel, said at a gathering Thursday morning at the opening of the Nelson Mandela Sport and Culture Day in Johannesburg that he was actually in much better condition at the moment.

"Madiba is sometimes uncomfortable," she said, referring to Mr. Mandela by his clan name. "But he is fine."


This article originally appeared in The New York Times.


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