Tag Archives: Mandela grave row

South Africa – the Mandela grave fight explained

Mail and Guardian

The Mandela graves’ saga explained

09 Jul 2013 00:00 Phillip De Wet

Mandla and Makaziwe Mandela have been at loggerheads over the Mandela family graves, with both making incredulous claims. But what are the facts?

Mandla Mandela. (AFP)
Mandla Mandela. (AFP)


Last week, Nelson Mandela’s grandson Mandla Mandela was taken to court by Madiba’s daughter, Makaziwe Mandela, over him moving family graves. Mandla is the chief of Mvezo, Mandela’s birthplace, and moved the grave site of three of Mandela’s children from Qunu.

But Makaziwe and 15 other members of the Mandela family, including Nelson Mandela’s wife Graça Machel, won the case, forcing Mandla to return the graves.

Mandla accused the family of tricking the court into making a ruling in their favour, while his aunt said Mandla was only trying to cash in from Mandela’s burial.

This week, Mandla may hear whether he will be criminally prosecuted in the ongoing drama.

Here is what you need to know to make sense of the story as it develops.

Whose graves are at issue? It’s all about where Nelson Mandela will be buried, really, but the battle has been fought by way of the location of the graves of three of his children; at least the Mandela family agrees he wished to be buried with his children.

The three graves are those of Magkatho Lewanika Mandela, Nelson Mandela’s last son, whom the elder statesman himself disclosed in 2005 had died of Aids-related causes; Madiba Thembekile Mandela; and Makaziwe Mandela, who died as an infant and should not be confused with eldest daughter Pumla Makaziwe, known as Maki or Makaziwe.

Why did Mandla Mandela move the graves? By his own telling, because he could.  Mandla is the eldest son of Makgatho, and claims the right to decide where his father is buried. He is the oldest male grandchild of Nelson Mandela, which in traditional terms gives him a great deal of leeway in dealing with family matters. Those who know him well say he is also grimly determined to bring development to Mvezo, which has lagged far behind nearby Qunu even though it was Nelson Mandela’s birthplace. The implication – though this has never been proven – is that Mandla wanted to secure Mvezo as Nelson Mandela’s final resting place, in order to attract tourists and investment and so ensure a better future for his people.

Who is winning the grave fight? Everyone but Mandla Mandela. Almost all the rest of the family have lined up against him, including (according to court documents) Machel and Winnie Madikizela-Mandela. Mandla had a weak legal case to begin with, but was completely out-played in court. He has also seen his traditional standing weakened with abaThembu King Buyelekhaya Dalindyebo publicly denigrating him and his claim to chieftaincy.

Where does Nelson Mandela want to be buried? In Qunu. There is little doubt about that. Early versions of Mandela’s will specified Qunu, and he told several people as much, sometimes on camera. It is not clear whether his final testament may provide some room in the matter, but Mandela was consistently clear that his grave should be in Qunu.

Where will he be buried? Unless things change dramatically, almost certainly in Qunu. The graves of his children have been moved back to Qunu, the faction of the family who want him buried there is firmly in charge, and preparations of the site are well advanced.

What does all of this mean for the future of the Mandela family? The family may emerge from the entire saga more united than it has been for many years, with Mandla left in the cold and a new matriarch in charge – Makaziwe.

Makaziwe, who has been leading the legal charge against Mandla and those in control of trusts holding Nelson Mandela’s money, now appears to be firmly in control of family affairs. She is the only surviving child of Nelson Mandela’s first wife, Evelyn Mase. She has the support of  Winnie Madzikela-Mandela’s oldest daughter Zenani, who in turn has close links to the government and the presidency; Zenani is South Africa’s current ambassador to Argentina.

That leaves only Machel as a potential opposing force to Makaziwe, but despite her long marriage to Nelson Mandela, Machel by all accounts has firmly kept to the sidelines in family matters.

Who in the Mandela family is trying to profit from his name? It may be faster to list those who are not trying to cash in on the Mandela name. Nelson Mandela’s grandson, Zondwa Mandela, (who gained fame as the partner of Khulubuse Zuma, nephew of President Jacob Zuma, in the disastrous acquisition of the Aurora hold mine), registered a company to turn a profit on Mandela’s upcoming birthday.

Granddaughters Zaziwe and Swati have launched a clothing line named LWTF (for Long Walk to Freedom) and are starring in a reality TV series Being Mandela.

Makaziwe and her daughter Tukwini are trying to break into the wine market in the United States with a brand named House of Mandela. And virtually all of the children and grandchildren are involved in legal action to gain access to money raised in various ways by, and for, Nelson Mandela.

South Africa – police break down Mandla Mandela’s gate as graves row goes on


Mandela graves row: Police break down grandson’s gate

Mandla Mandela, grandson of former South African President Nelson Mandela, sings during a church service near the home of the former president in Qunu on 30 June 2013 Mandla Mandela was appointed as chief of Mvezo by his grandfather


The gates to the homestead belonging to Nelson Mandela’s grandson Mandla in South Africa’s Eastern Cape Province have been broken down by police.

It comes hours after a court ruled the remains of three of the ex-president’s children should be removed from there to a nearby family graveyard.

He moved the remains in 2011, allegedly without the family’s consent.

His 94-year-old grandfather remains critically ill in hospital suffering from a recurring lung infection.

The former president has said he wants to be buried in the family graveyard in the village of Qunu, where he grew up and mostly lived after he retired.

Last Friday, 16 members of the Mandela family were granted an interim order for the remains to be exhumed and moved from Mandla Mandela’s homestead in the village of Mvezo, the former president’s birthplace, to nearby Qunu, 22km (14 miles) away.

Nelson Mandela’s children

With Evelyn Mase:

  • Thembekile born 1945, died 1969
  • Makaziwe born 1947, died aged nine months
  • Makgatho born 1950, died 2005
  • Makaziwe, born 1954

With Winnie Madikizela-Mandela:

  • Zenani born 1959
  • Zindziswa born 1960

But Mandla Mandela, who was appointed as chief of Mvezo by his grandfather, went to court to challenge it.

The Mthatha High Court confirmed its initial decision and said the exhumations should take place at 15:00 local time (13:00 GMT) on Wednesday.

Mr Mandela’s eldest grandson has appealed against the decision, but the police arrived at his property on Wednesday afternoon accompanied by Mr Mandela’s daughter Makiziwe, the BBC’s Gringo Wotshela in Mvezo reports.

The remains are of Makgatho Mandela, Mandla’s father who died from Aids-related diseases in 2005, and his siblings, Thembekile, who was killed in a car accident in 1969, and Makaziwe, who died when she was nine months old.

The BBC’s Pumza Fihlani in Johannesburg says Mandla Mandela’s plans to open a heritage centre dedicated to his grandfather in Mvezo, in the estate where the graves are at the moment, have left a bitter taste in the mouths of many within the family.

Some family members have also laid a criminal complaint against him for illegal grave tampering.

The police told the BBC on Tuesday they would investigate such allegations and a public prosecutor would then decide whether to press charges.



South Africa – Mandela family grave fight to continue in court

Mail and Guardian

A legal spat about the Mandela family gravesite is set to resume in the Eastern Cape High Court in Mthatha on Tuesday.

Former president Nelson Mandela, who is in a critical condition in a Pretoria hospital, has said he wants to be buried in Qunu alongside his family. (Delwyn Verasamy, M&G)                    
Former president Nelson Mandela, who is in a critical condition in a Pretoria hospital, has said he wants to be buried in Qunu alongside his family. (Delwyn Verasamy, M&G)

The high court granted 16 members of the family a court order last week that Mandla Mandela return to Qunu the remains of three family members he had exhumed and reburied in his home village of Mvezo two years ago.

On Monday, counsel for both parties discussed the matter in chambers with Judge Lusindiso Pakade, said attorney Sandla Zigadla, for the 16 family members who applied for the court order.

“They were trying to put Mandla’s side forward,” Zigadla said.

“They want to file their answering papers. The judge decided that the matter had to be heard full-blown in court at 11.30am on Tuesday.”

The three exhumed graves are those of Mandela’s eldest son, Mandla’s father, Makgato Mandela who died in 2005; Mandela’s first daughter Makaziwe, who died as an infant in 1948; and Mandela’s second son Madiba Thembekile, who died in a car accident in 1969.

Mandla Mandela is the official head of the Madiba clan and is an ANC MP.

Madiba wants to be buried in Qunu Former president Nelson Mandela, who is in a critical condition in a Pretoria hospital, has said he wants to be buried in Qunu alongside his family.

Mandla Mandela who was named chief of Mvezo after the death of Makgatho Mandela in 2005, claims that Mvezo, where he is building a multimillion-rand hotel, is the birthplace of the Mandelas and holds historic significance.

An error in the court papers last week has given him until July 29 to respond to the matter, instead of June 29.

On Monday, Mandla’s counsel argued in chambers that they were not ready to argue the matter as they had been led to believe that they had until July 29 to prepare their argument.

Mandla has indicated that he will oppose the exhumations.

Last week, a Mandela family member told the South African Press Association that, when the matter was raised at a family meeting in Qunu, Mandla refused to answer why he had moved the graves without consulting the family and stormed out of the meeting.

“When Mandla was ordered to bring back the remains, he stormed out,” the family member said.

Mandla Mandela was taken to court by a community member last year for digging up community graves to build the hotel.               The case is still to be heard in court.

‘Deep disappointment to my grandfather’ A member of the Mandela family told the Dispatch newspaper on Monday that Mandla Mandela would be “on his way down and out of the family” when Nelson Mandela died.

“He stole the remains of Madiba’s children from Qunu to Mvezo in 2011 because he knew that he [Nelson Mandela] would want to be buried with [his] children, and that would be his diamond field,” the family member told the newspaper.

Mandla Mandela said in a statement on Sunday he was “regrettably compelled” to go to court and respond to the action.

“The way we are handling this matter is contrary to our customs and a deep disappointment to my grandfather and his ancestors,” he said. – Sapa  M&G