The members of the Mandela clan are quarrelling over where their most famous elder should eventually be buried. He grew up in Qunu. This is where three of his direct offspring were laid to rest. Then, two years ago, their remains were moved,
20 kilometres away, to the village of Mvezo, where Nelson Mandela was born, and where a grandson, Mandla, had a memorial built to the anti-apartheid leader.
Mandla’s father, Mandela’s son, died from AIDS in 2005. Mandla claimed the mantle of clan chief in Mvezo. The decision to move the bodily remains in question was his.
Mandla said: “I received an instruction from my aunt Makaziwe to remove the remains and bury them in a secret location which was in Qunu where she is preparing a grave site for my grandfather. Because this was not an instruction coming from my grandfather, I didn’t follow those instructions.”
His aunt, Makaziwe, who is Mandela’s eldest daughter, with 14 other family members complained through the courts that the transfer of the remains had not been legal.
The Mthatha regional court, 700 kilometres south of Johannesburg, just days ago upheld the complaint and ordered the remains be returned to Qunu.
Swiftly, the memorial compound built by Mandla was unlocked using a pick-axe and the new graves were reopened. Other controversies involve claims by a Mandela reality TV star granddaughter and Makaziwe’s plans to label a wine ‘The House of Mandela’.
The following day, the remains were reburied in Qunu. The family dispute was culturally shocking, as, according to tradition, the dead must not be disturbed. Spiritual healer Sollyn Duku explained what he believes: “If there is consensus in the family it means there is also consensus in the spiritual world. But if there is actually disagreement in the living world it means there are also challenges in the spiritual world.”
Mandela’s material wealth is being hotly contested by his descendants. A prisoner for decades, then hero and president, his legacy is not only measured in dignity and prayer but represents also a cash fortune.