Mandela grave dig starts

2013-07-03 17:54
Ndaba Mandela, grandson of Nelson Mandela examines a burial site at Mvezo resort. (Carl de Souza, AFP)

Ndaba Mandela, grandson of Nelson Mandela examines a burial site at Mvezo resort. (Carl de Souza, AFP)

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Johannesburg - Health department officials started digging to find the remains of three of former president Nelson Mandela's children in Mvezo on Wednesday, Eastern Cape police said.

"The graves are not marked, but when they find the coffins they will identify the remains," police spokesperson Mzukisi Fatyela said.

"Police are on the scene monitoring the situation."

Earlier in the day, the ailing icon's grandson Mandla Mandela, who is also the Mvezo chief, lost a challenge against a court order instructing him to rebury the remains in Qunu.

Mandla exhumed the graves of the three children in 2011 and reburied their remains in Mvezo.

Mandla's lawyer said it was illegal for the Mandela family to exhume the remains because there was no one at Mvezo to show them where the remains were, and the graves were not clearly marked.

Officials from the sheriff of the court's office broke open a gate to Mvezo village on Wednesday afternoon to gain access to the graves.

ENCA filmed an official using a pick-axe to force open the gate.

Three hearses and police vans entered the village.

They were to transport the remains of three of Mandela's children from Mvezo, where he was born, to Qunu, where he grew up.

Mandela's eldest surviving daughter Makaziwe Mandela and grandson Ndaba Mandela reportedly arrived at Mvezo along with the officials from the health department.

On Tuesday, criminal charges were laid against Mandla over the exhumation and reburial.

Fatyela said a case of tampering with a grave had been opened.

"The investigation started yesterday [Tuesday] after the case was opened," he said.

Fatyela said members of the Mandela family laid the charge, but declined to name them.

Mandela remained critically ill on Wednesday in a Pretoria hospital, where he is being treated for a recurring lung infection.

- SAPA
Read more on:    nelson mandela  |  mandla mandela  |  east london  |  mandela graves saga
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