PRETORIA — Two leading South Africans have called for an end to a bitter row among members of Nelson Mandela’s family over the reburial of three of his children.
Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe said he hoped the public dispute could be resolved in a “dignified manner”.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu pleaded with the family not to “besmirch” Mandela’s name with their squabble.
President Jacob Zuma has meanwhile denied reports that Mandela, 94, was in a vegetative state.
South Africa’s first black president has spent the past four weeks in a Pretoria hospital with a recurrent lung condition.
“Madiba remains in a critical, but stable condition. The doctors deny that the former president is in a vegetative state,” said a statement from Zuma, who visited Mandela yesterday.
The statement came after court papers filed on behalf of Mandela’s eldest daughter, Makaziwe, on June 26 said his health was “perilous” and that he was “assisted in breathing by a life-support machine”, the AFP news agency reports.
A lawyer has told the BBC this document was never read out in court.
Subsequent court papers seen by the BBC also on behalf of Makaziwe Mandela, do not mention that her father was in a “vegetative state”.
One of Mandela’s friends and fellow former prisoners, Denis Goldberg, who visited the anti-apartheid icon on Monday, also said he was responsive but was prevented from speaking because he had tubes in his mouth.
“I’m quite satisfied he was responsive to what I was saying,” he said.
His wife, Graca Machel, yesterday said he is sometimes “uncomfortable, but he has never been in pain”.
Correspondents say there has been a long-running battle over Mandela’s legacy, but that it has intensified as his health has deteriorated.
The feud over the reburial of Mandela’s children is linked to the decision about where he will eventually be buried, as it is thought he would like to interred alongside them.
The legal documents were filed by Makaziwe and several other relatives last week in order to persuade a judge to make a speedy decision over whether to exhume the children. (BBC)