Judge orders Nelson Mandela's grandson Mandla to exhume bodies of anti-apartheid leader's children

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A judge ordered Nelson Mandela's grandson to exhume the bodies of three of the anti-apartheid leader's children today and return them to their original graves, the latest twist in a dispute that has divided South Africa's most famous family.

Mandla Mandela could face charges of grave tampering after claims that he had the remains of relatives dug up and moved to a new grave site without permission, police confirmed. The ghoulish saga comes as the 94-year-old former president remains critically ill in a hospital in Pretoria.

His grandson is involved in a court battle with at least 16 relatives in South Africa’s most famous family over the remains of children. The three were originally buried in Qunu, Mr Mandela’s childhood village. Mandla, an MP with the ruling ANC party, is accused of having them exhumed two years ago and moved about 12 miles to his home village of Mvezo. He has reportedly built a museum and guesthouse at Mvezo, and wants his grandfather to be buried there.

Mandela's eldest daughter, Makaziwe, who led the legal challenge against Mandla, declined to comment to reporters after the ruling. "This is a private family matter," she said.

South Africa’s first democratically elected president said in court papers nearly 20 years ago that he wanted a simple burial in Qunu, where he grew up, making no mention of Mvezo, where he was born but never lived.

Mr Mandela fathered six children from his three marriages. The three buried in Mvezo are an infant girl, also named Makaziwe, who died in 1948; Thembi, who died in a car crash in 1969; and Makgatho, who died of an AIDS-related illness in 2005.

Video: Nelson Mandela's first ever television interview in 1961