The family feud over the graves of the children of Nelson Mandela drew a sharp rebuke yesterday from Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
The retired cleric and Nobel Peace Prize winner joined the presidency and many ordinary South Africans in asking the family to reconcile after a tug of war over burial sites.
“Please, please, please may we think not only of ourselves. It’s almost like spitting in Madiba’s face,” he said in a statement released by his foundation. “Your anguish, now, is the nation’s anguish – and the world’s. We want to embrace you, to support you, to shine our love for Madiba through you. Please may we not besmirch his name.”
The family dispute which saw some members resort to the courts to force the former president’s grandson, Mandla Mandela, to return bodies he had removed to his own village to their original burial site in the village of Qunu.
“It is regrettable that there is a dispute going on among family members and we’d like that dispute to be resolved as amicably and as soon as possible,” President Jacob Zuma’s spokesperson Mac Maharaj told news agency AFP.
Mr Tutu’s fellow Nobel laureate remains in a “critical but stable condition” according to the presidency, which has denied reports that he is in a “persistent vegetative state” at a Pretoria hospital.
Anti-apartheid activist Denis Goldberg told reporters that Mr Mandela is “not unconscious” and was able to recognise him on a recent visit. Mr Maharaj said yesterday that a panel of doctors, nurses, paramedics and other health professionals “attend to Madiba on a 24-hour basis”.
The statement from the presidency came after court documents related to the burial saga surfaced stating that Mr Mandela was in a vegetative state and that his family had been advised to turn off his ventilator, another term for life-support machine.