Family begins burial talks as Mandela remains 'critical'
THE family of Nelson Mandela has gathered in the South African Eastern Cape village of Qunu for emergency talks about the critically ill former president.
The 94-year-old has spent his 19th day in intensive care in hospital.
Yesterday, his daughter Makaziwe called a family meeting in Qunu to discuss her father's health and the way forward.
At the same time, family visited the Madiba clan's grave site metres away from Mr Mandela's home.
According to the Xhosa people's custom, family consult the ancestors to prepare for a loved one who is on their deathbed.
The family also reportedly discussed burial arrangements at the Madiba plot which is in accordance with Xhosa tradition when someone is very ill.
Tradition dictates the elders must agree on the final resting place of a loved one.
The family meeting started shortly after 10am yesterday and the area was cordoned off to keep reporters and tv vans away.
Mr Mandela's grandson Mandla Mandela appeared to be leading the family delegation as they made their way into the home.
The former president's family spent most of the day behind closed doors in Qunu.
Meanwhile, there was no let-up of visitors to the Pretoria hospital where Mr Mandela has been admitted.
Winnie Madikizela-Mandela and Anglican Archbishop Thabo Makgoba were at the statesman's bedside.
The controversial businessman Kenny Kunene, known as the 'Sushi King', also caused a stir when he made an appearance and placed flowers at the fence of the hospital.
The South African presidency released a statement yesterday afternoon amidst wild unconfirmed reports that Mr Mandela's life support was going to be turned off.
"Former President Nelson Mandela's condition remains unchanged in hospital and doctors continue to do their best to ensure his recovery, well-being and comfort," Presidency spokesman Mac Maharaj said.
He would not confirm the nature of Mr Mandela's medical treatment.
In the same statement, South African President Jacob Zuma said South Africans must continue preparations for Mr Mandela's birthday next month.
"We must all be planning what to do next month in marking our 67 minutes of doing good for humanity as called upon by Madiba to do so, when he launched the International Mandela Day campaign.
"Let us make it the biggest Mandela Day ever on July 18, focusing on doing good all over the country'', said Mr Zuma.
Napilisi Mandela, a Mandela family elder, said that the family meeting was called to discuss "delicate matters pertaining to the anti-apartheid icon".
Another relative, Silumko Mandela, said the meeting was called at the last minute. "Many of us in the village were only told this morning," he said.
Mr Mandela's grandson, Mbuso, suggested there was room for hope. "Helpers from my grandfather's home went to see him and when one said, 'It's Sarah', he started shaking his head and grinning."