Mandela grandson lashes out at family in grave row

MVEZO, South Africa (AFP) - Nelson Mandela's oldest grandson Mandla hit back on Thursday in a bitter family quarrel, launching a tirade against his close relatives after he was ordered to return the remains of three of the ailing anti-apartheid hero's children.

"In the past few days I have been the target of attacks from all sorts of individuals wanting a few minutes of fame and media attention at my expense," Mandla said at a nationally televised press conference held at a grass thatched public hall in the remote village of Mvezo where he is chief.

"At the moment it seems that anyone and everyone can come and say 'I am a Mandela' and demand to be part of decision-making in this family. Individuals decided to jump on the Mandela waggon," he added, before launching personal attacks on a number of his relatives.

He accused Mandela's daughter Makaziwe of trying to "sow divisions and destruction" in her family.

The icon's ex-wife Winnie, who has regularly visited him in hospital, "has no business in the matters of the Mandelas," he added.

He also lashed out at his own brother Ndaba for claiming he was born out of wedlock.

"I don't want to hang out our dirty linen as a family in public but he knows very well that my father impregnated a married woman of which he is the result of that act... As for the remaining of my two brothers we all know that they are not my father's children." He said one of his brothers, Mbuso, had "impregnated my wife".

The targets of his anger jointly took Mandla to court to force him to return the remains of the three Mandela children to the revered leader's childhood village of Qunu, from the grandson's estate in the village of Mvezo about 30 kilometres (20 miles) away in the Eastern Cape province.

In dramatic scenes on Wednesday, authorities forced open the gates to Mandla's estate to exhume the remains.

Mandla said he had been surprised by the court order and had moved the graves "after following all the rituals and protocols".

The exhumed remains were due to undergo forensic tests Thursday before reburial in Qunu.

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.