JOHANNESBURG— As Nelson Mandela remained in critical condition in hospital Friday, a family feud over where the 94-year-old former president should be buried went to the courts, according to South Africa’s national broadcaster.
Mandela’s oldest daughter, Makaziwe, and 15 other family members have pressed a court application to get Mandela’s grandson to return the bodies of three of Mandela’s children to their original graves in the eastern rural village of Qunu, according to the SABC.
The grandson, Mandla Mandela, acknowledges having reburied the three bodies 20 kilometers (13 miles) away in the Mvezo village, where he plans to create a Mandela shrine, hotel and soccer stadium, according to the South African Press Association.
Grandson Mandla Mandela has until Saturday to respond to the court filing, reports said.
The anti-apartheid leader built his retirement home in Qunu and was living there until his repeated hospitalizations which started at the end of last year. Nelson Mandela attended the burial of his son at the family plot in Qunu in 2005, and it was widely expected that the leader himself will be buried there.
But his grandson exhumed the bodies of Mandela’s three children and moved them to nearby Mvezo, which is the former president’s birthplace and where the grandson holds authority as chief.
Eldest daughter Makaziwe and other Mandela family members want the family bodies returned to their original graves in Qunu, according to the reports.
The family court struggle came as Mandela’s ex-wife said that he had improved in recent days, but remained critical.
Winnie Madikizela-Mandela gave the update Friday while speaking to journalists outside Mandela’s former home in Soweto.
“I’m not a doctor but I can say that from what he was a few days ago there is great improvement,” said Madikizela-Mandela, who is a member of South Africa’s Parliament.
Madikizela-Mandela pleaded with the media to “understand the sensitivities and the feeling of the family.”
His daughter Makaziwe Mandela was among the family members who arrived at the Pretoria hospital on Friday. The ministers of health and defense also visited, the South African Press Association reported.
Outside the Pretoria hospital on Friday, a man flying a drone-like object with a camera attached was led away by several policemen, adding to an already heightened atmosphere where well-wishers continue to gather to pray for Mandela.
Mandela was taken to the hospital on June 8 to be treated for what the government said was a recurring lung infection. South Africans have held prayers nationwide, and many have left flowers and messages of support outside the hospital as well as his home in Johannesburg.
On Thursday, the office of South African President Jacob Zuma said Mandela’s health had improved overnight, and that his condition was critical but stable.