Mandela attends funeral for great-granddaughter

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The Independent Online

Nelson Mandela made a rare public appearance yesterday to attend the funeral of his great-granddaughter, who died on the eve of the World Cup.

He joined relatives mourning the death of Zenani Mandela, 13, who was killed in a car crash on her way home from an opening concert in Johannesburg.

A clearly frail Mr Mandela, 91, was seen arriving on a golf cart at the Johannesburg school where the private family service was held and being helped by his wife, Graca Machel. He appeared to have difficulty walking.

The death of the teenager, who had just celebrated her 13th birthday, led the former South African president to cancel plans to attend the opening game of a tournament he had successfully lobbied to bring to the country.

Mr Mandela's health is a matter of intense concern in a country which sees him as a symbol of the unlikely reconciliation that followed the end of apartheid. He officially retired from public life after his 90th birthday but has made a handful of public appearances since.

There was anger at the death of one of Mr Mandela's nine great grandchildren but not surprise. South Africa has one of the highest road fatality rates in the world. The vehicle involved in the one-car crash was being driven by a family friend.

School friends and family members arrived in their hundreds at the Johannesburg Methodist chapel yesterday. Condolence messages were read that described her as a "natural born star" who loved music.

A video message from Naomi Campbell was among the tributes, with the model saying she had regarded Zenani as a "god daughter". The two-hour service featured pop songs, hymns and a Maya Angelou poem. The Soweto Gospel Choir performed as guests arrived. Later, the soul classic "Lean on Me" was played.

Zenani's great-grandmother, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, was present, along with a number of political leaders and home-grown and international celebrities.

However, Mr Mandela remained the main focus of the service – it provided a curious public with an increasingly rare opportunity to see the Nobel Peace Prize winner who, despite his apparent fragility, was seen to chat and smile with relatives.