JOHANNESBURG (AP) — A family feud over the burial site of three of Nelson Mandela’s children intensified Tuesday when criminal charges were filed against one of his grandsons, as the ailing 94-year-old former president remained hospitalized in critical condition.
Sixteen relatives have taken grandson Mandla Mandela to court after he reburied the children’s remains in Mandela’s birthplace of Mvezo in 2011. The Mandela relatives claim Mandla Mandela had not sought permission or even informed family members when he did so.
The revered statesman has long said that he wants to be buried in Qunu, where his children were buried in the family plot. Mandla Mandela moved the children’s remains to Mvezo, where he plans to open a hotel.
Arguments were heard Tuesday over a court order calling for the bodies to be returned to Qunu; the case was adjourned until Wednesday.
Meanwhile, police said criminal charges of “tampering with a grave” have been pressed against Mandla Mandela over the exhumation of the three bodies.
“A case is opened at the police station and we will now investigate that case,” said police Lt. Col. Mzukisi Fatyela, who declined to reveal who pressed the charges.
Nelson Mandela was taken to a Pretoria hospital on June 8 for a recurring lung infection. Since then, there has been a groundswell of concern in South Africa and around the world for the man who spent 27 years as a prisoner under apartheid and then emerged to negotiate an end to white racist rule before becoming president.
Authorities also announced that former President F.W. de Klerk, who shared the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize with Mandela, was fitted with a pacemaker on Tuesday. De Klerk is the last leader of South Africa’s apartheid era and freed Mandela from prison before going on to serve as his deputy president.
A Cape Town-based foundation named after 77-year-old de Klerk said the former president felt dizzy after returning home on Sunday from a trip to Europe, following several such spells of dizziness in recent weeks.
It said de Klerk was “doing fine” after the pacemaker was successfully implanted and that de Klerk, in line with standard procedure, was staying in the hospital overnight.
South Africa President Jacob Zuma released a statement wishing the former leader a speedy recovery.
On Saturday, the foundation issued a statement on behalf of de Klerk and his wife Elita, saying they had decided to suspend a working visit and vacation in Europe because Mandela is critically ill, and that they were praying for an improvement in the health of the anti-apartheid leader.
De Klerk, a former education minister who had backed segregated schooling, was a key figure in a delicate transition that turned out to be relatively peaceful despite fears of widespread racial conflict.
In 1990, a year after becoming South Africa’s president, he announced he was legalizing the African National Congress, the banned group that led the anti-apartheid movement, and would free Mandela. De Klerk received the Nobel prize along with Mandela for his reformist initiatives and effectively negotiating himself out of power.
De Klerk later served as a deputy president during Mandela’s single five-year term as president. Since his retirement from political life, he has traveled widely and delivered lectures. His foundation says its mission is to help poor and disabled children, contribute to conflict resolution and uphold South Africa’s constitution, which robustly supports the protection of human rights.
Last year, Mandela’s archivists and Google announced a project to digitally preserve a record of Mandela’s life. In one online video, de Klerk recalled being asked to address parliament alongside Mandela in 2004. It was the 10th anniversary of the day Mandela became president. Mandela took de Klerk’s arm as lawmakers applauded.
“It is, if you now look back, a symbol of how reconciliation can manifest itself,” de Klerk said, reflecting on his encounter with Mandela.