Mandela children's remains to undergo forensics

MTHATHA, South Africa (AFP) - The exhumed remains of three of Nelson Mandela's children at the centre of an ugly family feud were due to undergo forensic tests on Thursday before reburial in the ailing anti-apartheid hero's childhood village.

The tests - to confirm that the remains are those of the three children - were expected to take about two hours in the city of Mthatha, police and a family member said.

"The remains will be taken for forensic tests and then after that they will be transported to Qunu for re-burial," police spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Mzukisi Fatyela told AFP.

In dramatic scenes that unfolded in front of the world's media on Wednesday, a sheriff forced open the gates to the estate of Mr Mandela's grandson Mandla with a pickaxe to allow three hearses to enter the property, where the disputed remains were moved in 2011, allegedly without the family's consent.

The new twist in the macabre saga came hours after a court in the nearby city of Mthatha ordered Mr Mandla, 39, to immediately move the graves back to Qunu, where Mr Mandela grew up, from the grandson's estate in the village of Mvezo about 30km away in the Eastern Cape province.

Judge Lusindiso Pakade described the grandson's actions as "scandalous".

A family member told AFP the relatives would meet on Thursday to discuss the reburial.

"While we are waiting for the forensic tests, as a family we are going to meet to come up with the date of reburying these bones of our family members," Mr Phumlani Mandela, another grandson of Mandela, told AFP.

The rift comes as the 94-year-old former political prisoner, who became South Africa's first black president, lies critically ill in what is now his fourth week in hospital.

Mr Mandela has expressed his wish to be buried at his rural homestead at Qunu, and his daughters wanted the children's remains to be returned so they can be buried together.

More than a dozen relatives of the revered leader, including his wife Graca Machel, two of his daughters and several grandchildren, took Mr Mandla to court over the dispute.

According to court documents submitted by the family on June 28 to support their case, Mr Mandela is in a "perilous" condition on life support, local media reported.

The disputed remains are of Mr Mandela's eldest son Thembekile, who died in 1969, his nine-month-old infant Makaziwe, who died in 1948, and Mr Mandla's own father Makgatho, who died in 2005.

Mr Mandla was due to hold a news conference on Thursday to answer "allegations and dirt thrown in his direction", his spokesman said.