Doctors treating Nelson Mandela said he was in a “permanent vegetative state” and advised his family to turn off his life support machine, according to court documents.
“He is in a permanent vegetative state and is assisted in breathing by a life support machine,” said a legal filing, dated June 26, related to a family dispute over reburying the remains of three of Mandela’s children.
The “Certificate of Urgency” document was filed by a lawyer representing Mandela family members who had successfully sought a court order to return the disputed children’s remains to the revered South African leader’s childhood home, after a grandson had them moved to his own village.
The document was presented to South Africa’s Eastern Cape High Court as President Jacob Zuma reported that Mandela’s health had faltered and cancelled a trip to Mozambique.
Lawyers for Mandela’s relatives, family members themselves and government officials were not immediately available for comment.
Meanwhile, the bitter feud between factions of Mandela’s family descended into soap opera farce yesterday when his grandson and heir, Mandla, accused relatives of adultery and milking the fame of the revered anti-apartheid leader. In a news conference broadcast live on TV that stunned South Africans, Mandla Mandela confirmed rumours that his young son, Zanethemba, was in fact the child of an illicit liaison between his brother Mbuso and Mandla’s now ex-wife Anais Grimaud.
With Mandela on life-support in a Pretoria hospital, the escalating feud has transfixed and appalled South Africa in equal measure.
“Mbuso impregnated my wife,” Mandla said in Mvezo, the Eastern Cape village 700km south of Johannesburg where Mandela (now 94 years old) was born and where Mandla serves as the formal chief of the clan.
Mandla, 39, first raised questions about his son’s paternity last year when he split from French-speaking Grimaud, who has since moved back home to the Indian Ocean island of Reunion.
His attempts to get the family to address the questions of Zanethemba’s paternity had been rebuffed in the interests of preserving a semblance of unity in South Africa’s most famous family, Mandla said.
Newspapers have plastered “Mandela vs. Mandela” headlines across their front pages and editorials have bemoaned the cruel irony of bitter divisions inside the family of a man lauded the world over as the epitome of reconciliation between races.
Mvezo, set in the rolling hills of the Eastern Cape, has been at the centre of a vicious row that may ultimately determine where South Africa’s first black president will be laid to rest. Two years ago, Mandla exhumed the bodies of three of Mandela’s children from Qunu, where Mandela grew up, and moved them the 20km to Mvezo, where he has built a visitor centre and a memorial centre dedicated to his grandfather.
Last week, a rival faction of the family, led by Mandla’s aunt Makaziwe and including Mbuso, won a court order for the bodies to be returned to Qunu — an edict carried out late on Wednesday after a last-minute legal bid by Mandla failed.
Speaking calmly and deliberately in front of a bank of cameras, Mandla lashed out at Makaziwe and members of the wider family, accusing them of trying to cash in on the legacy of one of the 20th century’s most respected political figures.
“This is the very family that has taken their own father, their own grandfather, to court for his monies,” he said, referring to a long-running legal bid by Makaziwe to remove the guardians of a Mandela charitable trust.
“It seems like anyone and everyone can come and say ‘I am a Mandela’ and demand to be part of the decision-making in this family,” he said. “Individuals have abandoned their own families and heritage and decided to jump on the Mandela wagon.”
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved