The grandson of Nelson Mandela is being investigated by police over allegations of tampering with graves.
Mandla Mandela is suspected of illegally exhuming the bodies of three of the former South African president’s children from a family grave yard two years ago.
The police probe is the latest twist in an unedifying family feud that has drawn global attention as the 94-year-old apartheid hero remains in a critical condition in a Pretoria hospital.
Sixteen members of the Mandela family have already won a court order forcing Mandla -- officially chief of the Mandela clan -- to return the bodies that he allegedly dug up in 2011 from the village of Qunu, where Nelson Mandela grew up.
Mandla Mandela, who was appointed as chief of Mvezo by his grandfather, went to court to challenge it. Mandla had the remains moved 20 km to his Eastern Cape village of Mvezo.
He has not commented on why he moved the bodies but Mvezo is where Mandela was actually born and where many South Africans believe Mandla wants South Africa’s first black president to be buried.
The three Mandela children buried in Mvezo are an infant girl who died in 1948, a boy, Thembi, who died in a car crash in 1969, and Makgatho, who died of an AIDS-related illness in 2005. In all, Mandela fathered six children from his three marriages.
“We have started our investigation and we will send the case to the senior prosecutor for a decision on whether to prosecute or not,” said Eastern Cape police spokesman Mzukisi Fatyela.
Nelson Mandela has spent more than three weeks battling a lung infection, forcing South Africans to accept that the Nobel Peace Prize laureate who helped end white-minority rule will not be around forever.
Big name cash grab
Mandela’s relatives have long cashed in on the earning potential of the family name -- which some experts say is as big as Coca-Cola. They have already launched a Mandela wine label and clothes range, sold machine-autographed artwork and been in a TV reality show. In 2008 a former TV chief even claimed Mandla Mandela pocketed £250,000 for exclusive rights to televise the statesman’s funeral. He denied the allegation.