SOWETO, SOUTH AFRICA — It seems like a storyline from a lurid soap opera. The remains of an aging patriarch’s three deceased children are secretly moved from their graves in a family plot. Two years later, other family members go to court to have the bodies returned. The messy fight — over legacy, money, and traditions — unfolds as the patriarch lies critically ill, unable to intervene.
Only this is not fiction, and the patriarch is Nelson Mandela.
As the anti-apartheid icon fights for survival in a hospital, his family is clashing over where and how he is to be buried. The squabble is playing out in newspapers, online and on TV, angering a nation gripped with grief and praying collectively for their beloved 94-year-old former president to remain with them longer.
“It’s a disgrace,” said Edward Kutoane, 37, a security guard who was playing with his toddler son steps away from Mandela’s old house, now a museum. “It violates the very principles the old man lived by. He lived a peaceful life with respect for others. We expected his children and grandchildren to be the same, but they have forgotten where they come from.”
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