He also sought to distance himself from his aunts’ legal efforts to gain control of the companies, saying that he did not want to be “associated with court actions that are a clear squabble over my grandfather’s monies.”
Mandela’s large family — six children, 17 grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren — has long been controversial and outspoken. In recent days, Makaziwe Mandela publicly described the foreign media as racist “vultures.” And Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, Mandela’s ex-wife, blasted President Jacob Zuma for visiting him with other ANC leaders in April and taking pictures that were later broadcast, leading to accusations that the party was using the visit for political purposes.
The family feud has generated so much anxiety among South Africans that in some churches, prayers were being said not only for Mandela’s recovery but also for his relatives to settle their disputes. During Sunday services in Qunu, the Rev. Sonwabile Msotyana told congregants, who included Mandla, that Nelson Mandela would want to return to a united family when he gets well.
“We are here to pray for him to recover and to also pray for the unity of the nation . . . especially at this most serious time, when a lot of things are being said about the Mandela family,” said Msotyana, according to the Sowetan, a local newspaper. “The family must close the cracks created by Satan.”
Some elders from Mandela’s clan have said that exhuming remains violates their beliefs and traditions and is considered a bad omen. The elders are expected to meet next week in Qunu to try to broker peace between his relatives and resolve the matter over the remains, according to the South African Press Association news agency.
In Soweto, the issue of ancient traditions and culture weighed on residents as much as the spectacle of the Mandela family fighting in a court ruled by modern laws. It was important, many said, for Mandela to be laid to rest next to his children in Qunu. “If not, it will bring bad luck to the family,” said Walter Moshidi, a 35-year-old unemployed man.
For most South Africans, the family feud is a reflection of how vastly different Mandela’s character is from that of his heirs. “Evidently grace and dignity are not inherited,” read an editorial in the Citizen, a well-known local newspaper.