Exclusive: Mandela elders visit Qunu grave

2013-06-26 00:00

The Witness can reveal that elders in the Mandela family last night visited the family gravesite in Qunu to plead for forgiveness from their ancestors for exhuming the bodies of family members in 2011.

The elders are furious with former president Nelson Mandela's grandson Mandla for digging up the remains of his father Makgatho and his father's two siblings, Makaziwe and Thembekile, and moving them to Mandela's birthplace Mvezo.

The visit happened at 5.30pm yesterday after a tense meeting between senior family members, Mandla, the elders, UDM leader Bantu Holomisa and Public Service and Administration Minister Lindiwe Sisulu in Qunu.

By custom gravesites are either visited early in the morning or late in the afternoon.

The gravesite is situated about 500 metres from the Qunu residence and is reserved for the Mandela family.

"The elders told the meeting that the Mandelas are being punished through making their beloved son (Nelson Mandela) suffer in hospital where he remains in great pain and anguish. The family is very unsure of what to do," said a well-placed source who attended the meeting.

"We visited the gravesite to plead for their forgiveness and for them to tell us what to do during this difficult time," the source said, adding that Mandla was taken to task by the entire family for removing the graves.

The source denied that Mandla left the meeting in a huff, as reported this morning.

"Mandla was part of the meeting from the beginning to the end. The meeting started at 11am and ended at 1pm. It was emotional and tense."

The elders in the Mandela family have attributed Mandela's ill health and constant hospitalisation for a lung infection to the "wrath of the ancestors".

The "wrath" was caused by the fact that Mandla Mandela, the Mvezo chief, removed the remains without consulting anyone.

Elders with knowledge of AbaThembu traditions and customs told the meeting yesterday that this had angered the Mandela family and brought a curse on it by the ancestors, the source claimed.

Mandla could not be reached for comment, as his phone went unanswered.

The source told The Witness that after the meeting it was decided that elders - men only - should visit the gravesite to appeal to the ancestors to spare Mandela from suffering.

Mandla did not go to the family gravesite where the elders had gone to plead with the ancestors. He drove from Qunu straight in the direction of Mvezo.

The source also revealed that after the visit to the gravesite yesterday afternoon it was decided that a delegation would visit Mandela in hospital.

This morning Nkosi Mfundo Mtirara, who was part of the family meeting, was spotted by The Witness at the Mthatha Airport.

Mtirara, a family relative and senior member of the Madiba clan, confirmed he would visit Madiba in hospital on his arrival in Gauteng.

He also confirmed the visit to the gravesite by the elders but refused to elaborate on the purpose.

"Yes we did go to the gravesite, but I cannot tell you why we were there because it's a confidential matter of the family," he said.

No family elders were seen at the airport with Mtirara, who said he was travelling alone.

"I will be going to see Tata in hospital. He cannot be alone at this hour of need. He needs AbaThembu and his family next to him," Mtirara said.

Mtirara refused to comment what was discussed in the family meeting, only saying it was "highly sensitive and confidential".

UDM leader and family friend, Bantu Holomisa, refused to comment and referred enquiries to Mandla.

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