Nelson Mandela died with wife Graca Machel and ex-wife Winnie Madikizela-Mandela at his side

December 8, 2013 10:12 AM

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Nelson Mandela died with wife Graca Machel and ex-wife Winnie Madikizela-Mandela at his side

NELSON Mandela died with the two main women of his life, wife Graca Machel, and the woman who he bitterly divorced in 1996, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, at his side.

As preparations are made to celebrate Nelson Mandela's life at memorial service in Johannesburg and a funeral service in the country's south, it has also been revealed that Mandela's personally nominated successor, grandson Mandla, thought to be excommunicated from the family, was also present.

South Africa's Sunday Times reported that Mandela died at 8.50pm on Thursday evening, local time, with the women, Mandla and his daughter, Makaziwe in the room. The paper said he was breathing on his own, without the support of a machine.

Mandela's immediate family has remained largely out of sight since the death. Some members have been shamed by ugly claims of gold-digging.

"The pillar of the family is gone, just as he was away during that 27 painful years of imprisonment, but in our hearts and souls he will always be with us, his spirit endures," Mr Matanzima said on Saturday in Johannesburg.

"As a family we commit ourselves to uphold and be guided by the values he lived for and was prepared to die for."

Soweto's 95-000-capacity FNB Stadium will be the site of a huge public memorial for world leaders and citizens on Tuesday, though there are doubts the stadium will be able to hold what is expected to be a much bigger crowd.

The rolling informal event has been marked by joy rather than sadness as the country braces for what may be the biggest funeral event the world has seen.

What has been described as a flood of world leaders, including President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Tony Abbott, along with a swathe of dictators who also revere Mandela, is set to cause a massive headache for South Africa's security forces.

Mandela's descendants have been accused of failing to live by his example, after grandson Mandla dug up the remains of three family members who were buried in Mandela's home village of Qunu on Eastern Cape and shifted them 20km south to his home village of Mvezo.

This was part of a bigger plan by Mandla, who had built a hotel and museum in Mvezo, intending that it also be the resting place of his grandfather, despite Mandela's wish that he be buried in his home village of Qunu.

A court ordered Mandla to return the bodies to Qunu and Mandela's final wishes to be buried there will be respected.

Two of his daughters, including Makaziwe, have been accused through legal actions of trying to gain control of Mandela's wealth and to trying to profit on his name.

People will have a chance to pay their last respects to him when his body will be transported in procession on Wednesday to the country's administrative capital, Pretoria, where it will lie in state before being flown by to Qunu for his funeral on Sunday.

Their marriage had failed during his long incarceration and Ms Madikizela-Mandela, who was Mandela's second wife, faced charges of leading an orchestrated campaign of gang violence in the Soweto township.

But she visited Mandela when he was first hospitalised in Pretoria earlier this year and is understood to be on close terms with Graca Machel.

Ms Madikizela-Mandela shot down rumours that towards the end, Mandela was in a virtual vegetative state. "I have heard this nonsense that he is on life support - he is not," she said last month.

The Sunday Times reports that close to midnight, on Thursday night, arrived to remove Mandela's body to a military hospital.

People of all backgrounds warmed up for a week of mourning outside Mandela's home in the well-to-do district of Houghton, coming together and showing why South Africa was christened the Rainbow Nation after the fall of apartheid.

But it appeared to be more festive than mournful as they formed tight circles and sang uplifting songs about the man they called Madiba.

They said he would not have wanted them to be sad, though one man who fought back a tear stood out among the others: a burly Afrikaans man who brought his wife and daughter to lay flowers.

The Afrikaners, or Boers, created the apartheid system that became so reviled around the world. Yet Deon Olivier, a sugar farmer from Natal, whose family grew up depending on black field hands, saw only greatness in what Mandela achieved.

"We weren't brought up to be racist. Why should we run?" Mr Olivier said. "This is our country after all.

"And we listened to what he was saying. He never distinguished between whites and black. He never distinguished between us. He was a great man."


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