Why Madiba went home

2011-05-28 19:42

Former president Nelson Mandela was in Qunu this week while his extended family were in the process of reburying three of his childrens’ remains in the ancestral plot.

The children were from his first marriage to Evelyn Mase.

Mandela’s only sons, Thembekile and Makgatho, and their ­sister Makaziwe, were exhumed ­after a two-day process that started on Tuesday and was supervised by Madiba’s grandson, Mandla ­Mandela.

Mandla Mandela, Makgatho’s son, and one of the elderly statesman’s close relatives, Zwelithambile Napilisi Mandela, were among a handful of family members present at the reburial in Mvezo, where the former president was born.

Also present was Mandla Mandela’s right-hand man, Jongisizwe Dani.

Half-a-dozen Qunu and Mvezo residents, including one elderly Mandela relative, spoke to City Press on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the ­reburial and for fear of “Mhlekazi Zwelivelile” – Mandla Mandela’s praise name.

Makaziwe died in infancy in 1948, while Thembekile (25) died in a car crash in the former Transkei in July 1969.Mandela was on Robben Island at the time of Thembekile’s death and was not allowed to attend the funeral.

Makgatho, aged 55, died of an Aids-related illness in January 2005.

Mandela and Mase, who died in 2004, also have another daughter Makaziwe (wife of the alleged fugitive Dr Isaac Kwame Amuah).

Mandela married Mase in 1944 but they divorced in 1957.

Locals who attended the reburial told City Press they were asked to dig in Mvezo on Monday, a day ­after Mandela arrived in Qunu.Mandla Mandela did not respond to City Press’s request for comment.

At the family graveyard, a group of men and at least one woman (a healthworker) exhuming the graves were first spotted by villagers in Qunu on Tuesday and the ­exhumation continued until after 2pm on Wednesday, just a few hours before the reburial started in Mvezo.Later that afternoon, a close Mandela relative said a hearse and a convoy of vehicles drove towards Mvezo from Qunu (about an hour away).

During the exhumation at the family graveyard, an adult’s coffin and a tiny white child’s coffin were visible.A group of locals, undertakers and healthworkers wearing white masks and gloves were at the graveyard throughout the exhumation on Wednesday.

A Mvezo resident, who was among the men who assisted during the reburial, said on Friday Mandla Mandela blocked access to the Mvezo homestead, parking a bakkie across the only road leading to the house.It is understood that the re­burial took place because the family wanted to consolidate the Mandela graves at Mvezo.

According to residents, Madiba was at the homestead at the time of the ­reburials.

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