Nelson Mandela remains in serious condition in a South African hospital, but as he clings to life his family has deepened a feud over where the former president will be buried.
On Wednesday the remains of three of Nelson Mandela’s children were exhumed from land belonging to his grandson, Mandla Mandela. The remains were moved in 2011 without the family’s consent.
Mandla is a tribal leader in the Mandela family and Nelson’s heir. His plan was to re-bury the bodies in Mzevo village, where he planned to build a Mandela shrine, hotel, and soccer stadium. Nelson Mandela would later be buried there as well, according to Mandla’s plan.
Mandla has power in Mvezo, where he serves as chief.
Nelson Mandela’s oldest daughter, Makaziwe, had filed a court petition along with 15 other family members to force Mandla to return the bodies to their original graves.
Though reports from President Jacob Zuma on Monday said Mandela’s health was critical but stabilized, the court filing said he was on life support.
“Nelson Mandela’s health is perilous. [An] affidavit will be provided from physicians that he is assisted in breathing by a life support machine,” South Africa’s Mail and Guardian newspaper quotes the documents as saying.
The court ruled that the remains should be removed, leading to a dramatic scene where the gates of the graveyard were forced open and police searched for the graves.
Nelson Mandela has stated that he wants to be buried on a remote hillside in his ancestral home of Qunu.
“He never gave death a great deal of thought, but he never wanted anything fancy,” a friend of the Mandela family said.
The Nelson Mandela family feud does not appear to be quelled by the court ruling. Some family members have also filed a criminal complaint against Mandla Mandela for illegal grave tampering. A prosecutor is hearing the allegations and deciding whether to file charges.