Don’t ‘besmirch’ Mandela’s name, Tutu to feuding family
JOHANNESBURG - Agence France-Presse
Nobel laurate Desmond Tutu (L) is seen with Mandela in this 2004 photo. AFP photoSouth Africa’s Nobel Peace Prize laureate Desmond Tutu has pleaded with Nelson Mandela’s family not to “besmirch” his name after they engaged in a public spat fuelled by a legal dispute over a burial site.
The family of the global icon has been involved in a bitter legal squabble over the reburial of Mandela’s three children whose remains were exhumed from a family graveyard in Qunu in 2011 and reburied in Mvezo.
The remains were dug out by Mandela’s oldest grandson Mandla, without the family’s approval.
On July 4 the remains were reburied in Qunu, Mandela’s childhood village, after more than a dozen family members led by Mandela’s daughter Makaziwe, applied for an urgent ruling forcing Mandla to return them.
‘Like spitting to Madiba’s face’
“Please, please please may we think not only of ourselves. It’s like spitting in Madiba’s face,” said Tutu in a statement. In dramatic scenes on July 3, authorities forced open the gates to Mandla’s estate to exhume the remains, following a heated legal battle. Meanwhile, the South African government denied that Mandela is in a permanent vegetative state, as outlined in court documents filed on June 26.
“We confirm our earlier statement released this afternoon after President Jacob Zuma visited Madiba in hospital that Madiba remains in a critical, but stable condition,” said the statement using Mandela’s clan name.
The June 26 court filing showed for the first time just how close the still critically ill 94-year-old came to death.
Tutu told the family he could not imagine the difficulty endured by the family when they were separated from the anti-apartheid icon for 27 years while he was in prison, “only to share him with the world when freedom came.”
The rift comes as the 94-year-old former political prisoner, who became South Africa’s first black president, lies critically ill in what is now his fourth week in hospital.
“Please may we not besmirch his name.” Tutu said. The exhumed graves belong to Mandela’s children who died between 1969 and 2005, one of them is Mandla’s own father Makgatho.