S. African court orders exhumation of Mandela family remains

MTHATHA, South Africa (AFP) - A South African court on Wednesday ordered that the remains of three of Nelson Mandela's children be immediately returned to his ancestral village, rejecting a bid by his oldest grandson to stop the exhumation following a bitter family feud.

Mandela's grandson Mandla allegedly had the graves moved to Mvezo, about 30 kilometres (20 miles) away, in 2011 without the rest of the family's consent.

Mandela, who remains critically ill in what is now his fourth week in hospital, has expressed his wish to be buried in his childhood village of Qunu, and his daughters want to have the children's remains returned so they can be buried together.

A judge in the southern city of Mthatha upheld an earlier interim order for Mandla to return the remains to Qunu by Wednesday afternoon and instructed him to pay all legal costs.

The order was issued in response to a request by more than a dozen relatives of the revered leader, who led the struggle against white-minority rule in South Africa and won election as the country's first black president in 1994 after spending 27 years in apartheid prisons.

The relatives who brought the case included two of Mandela's daughters and several grandchildren.

After the decision, family members stood up and hugged each other.

Mandela's eldest daughter Makaziwe refused to comment on the ruling, saying "a private matter will remain private".

The family on Tuesday also sought criminal charges of grave tampering against Mandla. Mandla's lawyers had asked the court to rescind the order, saying he was not served with the relevant papers.

Previously the grandson has argued that Mandela should be buried at his birthplace Mvezo, where Mandla holds court as clan chief.