(PRETORIA, South Africa) — Men with pick axes broke down a gate in order to remove the bodies of Nelson Mandela’s three deceased children Wednesday and return them to their original graves.
The exhumation of the bodies is part of a family feud among Africa’s most famous family during Mandela’s last days.
Members of the Mandela clan who were unable to agree on a final resting place for the family patriarch now must accept Wednesday’s ruling by a judge that the children’s bodies, removed in the middle of the night in 2011, allegedly by his grandson Mandla Mandela, must be returned.
Ndaba Mandela, Mandla Mandela’s half-brother, tweeted, “Justice has prevailed!”
Hearses to transfer the bodies from Mvezo back to Mandela’s ancestral village of Qunu arrived at Mandla Mandela’s home Wednesday and men with axes broke down the gate to the homestead.
The court ruling dictated the bodies must be returned to their original graves by 9 a.m. Eastern time.
Still, the transfer did not occur on time. The remains are unlikely to be removed tonight, a source tells ABC News. The bones will need to undergo DNA testing first. The graves belong to Nelson Mandela’s eldest son Makgato Mandela, who died in 2005, Mandela’s second son Madiba Thembekile, who was killed in a car accident in 1969 and his first daughter Makaziwe, who died in her infancy in 1948.
There will also be a two day “cleansing ceremony,” an attempt to appease elders and ancestors of the Thembu clan, Mandela’s family grouping. It’s their belief this ceremony is needed to apologize for disturbing the bodies so that the ancestors will forgive them and allow Nelson Mandela to one day rest in peace.
Members of the Mandela family accuse Mandla Mandela of moving the bodies to Mvezo, Nelson Mandela’s birthplace, for financial reasons. There are reports he plans to create a memorial for Mandela there.
The former South African president has reportedly said he would like to be buried in Qunu alongside his deceased children.
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