JOHANNESBURG — A tribal king in South Africa on Saturday removed a grandson of Nelson Mandela from his post of traditional authority while the former president is hospitalized in critical condition.
King Zwelibanzi Dalindyebo of the Thembu tribe said Mandla Mandela was being expelled “from all rank of duties” over a family feud, which erupted after it was revealed that the grandson had moved the bodies of three of Nelson Mandela’s children to his village of Mvezo in South Africa’s Eastern Cape province in 2011.
The bodies were recently returned to their original burial site in Mandela’s hometown, Qunu, after Mandela family members went to court to force Mandla Mandela to relinquish control of the remains.
King Dalindyebo said Mandla Mandela, a chief in the Mvezo area, wouldn’t be allowed any involvement in tribal affairs until he apologizes.
“He has not only angered us, he has also angered his own family,” the king said. “So as long as the family does not need him in their premises, we don’t need him in the Madiba clan at all.”
Nelson Mandela, who is often referred to by his clan name, Madiba, has been in a hospital for nearly a month. The family dispute had shocked many South Africans, even prompting a plea from retired archbishop Desmond Tutu for Mandela’s family to settle its differences as a show of respect for the ailing patriarch.
Some reports have suggested Mandla Mandela had the bodies of Mandela’s children taken to his village because visitors would be attracted to the site, increasing his local authority and reaping possible financial benefits. Mandla Mandela said family members had previously not complained about the 2011 removal, and that some people were falsely claiming decision-making authority in the Mandela family.
There was no official update Saturday on the condition of the 94-year-old former president, who is in critical but stable condition after being diagnosed with a recurring lung infection. He was taken to a hospital in Pretoria, the capital, on June 8.
The government has said Mandela is not in a vegetative state, contrary to recent court documents. A close friend told Sky News that the anti-apartheid leader was conscious and responsive earlier this week.
There has been an outpouring of concern in South Africa and around the world for Mandela, a transformative figure who led the tense shift from white rule to democracy two decades ago in a spirit of reconciliation.