The "one small mercy" is that Nelson Mandela is unaware of the unseemly behavior of his family
Vultures at his deathbed: Digging up children's bones. Grotesque greed, In the bitterest of ironies, the family of Nelson Mandela - a man of high ideals - are emerging as thoroughly unpleasant people
Wielding pick-axes and with a hearse parked ready behind them, a posse of court bailiffs smashed down the gates to the sprawling country estate owned by Nelson Mandela’s grandson yesterday. They had come to dig up the remains of three of the ailing former South African president’s children and rebury them in their original resting place.
Two years ago, determined to cash in on his grandfather’s eventual death, Mandla Mandela had secretly exhumed the bodies of Mandela’s baby daughter and his two late sons from the family plot and had them removed to his own land, anticipating that the great man’s grave — together with a new Nelson Mandela heritage centre he had built — would make a lucrative tourist attraction.
Other family members were horrified at his money-grabbing plan, and took the matter to court. Yesterday, a judge ordered the bodies to be replaced in Mandela’s home village — and when his 38-year-old grandson and heir declined to comply with his orders, bailiffs and police moved in.
For even as he clings to life, virtually his entire clan — including his scheming ex-wife Winnie, three surviving daughters, 17 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren — are embroiled in an unedifying battle for his legacy.
In truth, they have seemed more concerned about who will gain control of his legacy than for his well-being. Bitterly split into factions, they are fighting not only for the power to run trust-funds holding his multi-million-pound fortune, but for the right to be considered his ideological heir — with such indecent haste that ordinary South Africans are sickened by their behaviour, while elders from Mandela’s tribe have voiced fears that his spirit won’t be able to rest until their differences are resolved.
For Mandela, who devoted his life to reconciling people’s differences, the one small mercy is that he can know little or nothing about the family struggle being played out around his intensive care ward bed.
Indeed, as I was told this week, his second wife, Graca Machel — one of the few who does not appear to be consumed by self-interest — had been going to extraordinary lengths to shield her 94-year-old husband from news bulletins about the unseemly wrangle, even before he was taken ill.
This poignant description of Mandela’s lonely last days comes from his trusted circle of friends, including old confidant and lawyer of more than half a century, George Bizos.
One can’t help but wonder whether Mandela’s amnesia is born of disillusionment; for even his wife’s careful monitoring of the news surely can’t shield him from the harsh truth about the multi-racial ‘Rainbow Nation’ he set out to create 20 years ago. He must know that his successors have abjectly failed to live up to his high morals and motives.
And while South Africa is free of the iniquities of apartheid, he knows it has been traduced by grand-scale governmental corruption, soaring crime, mass unemployment and unremitting social depravation in the vast, putrid shanty-towns where millions subsist without sanitation or running water.
His fortune is often put at about £10 million, but according to George Bizos that is a gross underestimate. Under Mandela’s instructions, it is invested in a string of trusts designed to benefit the causes he championed, and also to educate successive generations of his descendants and help family members in times of need. Some have a very dubious definition of ‘need’, however, and even as his health has failed they continued their unseemly scramble to cash in on his fame.
Marketing experts already rank the ‘Mandela brand’ as second only to Coca-Cola in terms of global recognition, and say it has the potential to earn millions in perpetuity, like that of Elvis Presley and Michael Jackson. Since they are said to have set up 110 Nelson-themed companies, including daughter Makaziwe’s House Of Mandela wine label (with bottles at £27 and upwards), how his family must be rubbing their hands at the rich pickings in prospect.
Will any of them summon the wherewithal to rise above the rancour and carry his torch? It seems unlikely, but for South Africa’s sake we must hope so, for the country is crying out for moral guidance — and the thought of Mandela’s legacy being besmirched by money-grabbers who would turn him into a posthumous tourist attraction is almost too much to bear.
Nelson Mandela is in 'vegetative state and warring family were advised to turn off life support EIGHT DAYS ago', explosive court papers reveal as children are reburied
'Rather than prolonging his suffering, the Mandela family is exploring this option as a very real probability.'
The remains of the 94-year-old's three deceased children were reburied at their original resting site following a court order to return them after Mandla moved the bodies.
It comes as the bitter feud between Mandela's family descended into soap opera farce today 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 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
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.
Nelson Mandela's doctors deny he was in 'permanent vegetative state'
Doctors treating Nelson Mandela have been forced to deny a claim he is in a "permanent vegetative state" that was made in court papers by a lawyer representing close members of his family.
Posted by Jill Fallon at July 4, 2013 11:14 PM