Family get order for reburials

2013-06-29 00:00

AS former president Nelson Mandela remained critical in hospital yesterday, a judge granted 15 of his heirs permission to exhume the bodies of his three children and return their remains back home to Qunu for reburial.

Mandela has previously made it clear that he wanted to be buried in his rural home in Qunu and not Mvezo, where he was born.

While the urgent application appeared to be on behalf of 16 relatives, on closer inspection it was only 15 who sought action against their own, namely Madiba’s eldest grandson, Mandla.

The other respondents were Premier Noxolo Kiviet and Health MEC Sicelo Gqobana

Lawyers who drafted the papers appeared superstitious, jumping from the 12th to the 14th applicant, and not including a 13th.

The founding affidavit was signed by Mandela’s eldest daughter, Makaziwe, who has emerged as the matriach in the family.

At a family meeting earlier this week, elders attributed Madiba’s ill health and constant hospitalisation to the “wrath of ancestors”.

They believed this was the case because Mandla Mandela had removed the remains of three of Madiba’s children, Makgatho, Makaziwe and Thembekile, and reburied them in the village of Mvezo.

He had apparently done so in 2011 without consulting anyone.

In court yesterday, Judge Lusindiso Pakade heard that Mandla was not present.

The court heard how the sheriff had tried to serve the summons at Mandla’s residence in Mvezo on Thursday night, but could not gain access.

He therefore affixed the summons at the main entrance after making his presence known by hooting.

A court official was then sent to call Mandla’s name outside the court room, but he was nowhere to be found.

The applicants’ advocate, who had earlier met the state attorney in the judge’s chambers, was granted interim relief. Mandla Mandela has 48 hours to oppose the exhumation and reburial.

Wesley Hayes, the Mandela family’s attorney,was not in a position to comment yesterday. “I’m not allowed to [reveal the terms] because of the sensitivity of the matter.”

Mandla’s spokesperson, Freddy Pilusa, said the Mvezo chief was unaware of the court action as he had gone to visit Mandela at hospital.

However, he said Mandla “never had issue at all with exhumations and reburials” of the remains.

Weekend Witness understands that the gravesites where Mandela’s children were originally buried in Qunu were dug up on Tuesday to check if their remains were still there.

This was done in the presence of environmental officials from the King Sabata Dalindyebo (KSD) Municipality, on the same day the family held its private meeting.

KSD community services director Luvuyo Maka confirmed on Thursday night that environmental health officials were dispatched to the grave site to monitor safety and health standards after a funeral parlour made a request.

Meanwhile, AbaThembu chief Phathekile Holomisa said the procedure followed in exhuming the remains of the dead involved the elders of a family appeasing the ancestors by going to the graves and apologising for disturbing them in their resting place when the exhumation takes place.

“A goat can be slaughtered and traditional beer also brewed for the event, but this is not a must. Just doing the talking can be adequate.”

Holomisa added that the only people who could go to the grave site were the male relatives and that women could not attend the proceedings there.

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