Mandela grandson rejects efforts to strip chieftaincy

JOHANNESBURG (AFP) - Nelson Mandela's grandson on Monday denounced efforts to remove him as chief of the anti-apartheid icon's clan following a bitter family feud, as the former president started a second month in hospital.

Mandla Mandela rejected attempts by Thembu King Buyelekhaya Dalindyebo to strip him of his Madiba chieftaincy as the latest in a line of "delusional" statements from the monarch.

"He doesn't have the authority to do that," Mandla's spokesman Freddy Pilusa said.

Mandla, 39, earlier said processes to appoint and remove chiefs were lengthy. "King Dalindyebo has a habit of making delusional announcements," he said in a statement.

"You don't just wake up and call a meeting of followers and make such a decision," he added.

Nelson Mandela handpicked Mandla as his successor to head the Madiba clan - one of many in the Thembu nation - in the Eastern Cape province's village of Mvezo in 2007.

But a bitter family argument over the 94-year-old Nobel peace laureate's burial place has put Mandla in the firing line.

Fifteen family members won a court order to rebury the remains of Mandela's three deceased children, after Mandla moved them two years ago without consulting relatives.

The family accused Mandla of exhuming the graves to ensure that Mandela is buried on land owned by his grandson, who they said wanted to cash in on tourists visiting the gravesite.

Mandela has said in the past he wants to be buried with his family.

Last Thursday, Mandla lashed out against his brothers, aunts and other relatives in a televised news conference.

He called two brothers illegitimate and accused a third of impregnating his wife.

He also accused his relatives of trying to cash in the family name.

Dalindyebo, whose authority covers the Madiba clan, wants to remove Mandla as chief for using the graves "as a dancing floor".

The head of South Africa's traditional leaders association said Dalindyebo may be on shaky ground in unilaterally declaring Mandla's ousting.

Association's president Phathekile Holomisa said a series of procedures must be observed.

"The Mandela royal family has to refer the matter to the traditional council of Mvezo," Holomisa said.

After that the royal court comprising all the tribal leaders would decide on the complaint.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.