JOHANNESBURG — 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 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 on Thursday.
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”.
Deputy President Motlanthe criticised the behaviour of Mandela’s family on a radio chat show in Johannesburg.
“It’s all very sad, but we’ve got to continue keeping the family and Madiba in our prayers and continue to hope that Madiba will recover, and also that his family will manage its own affairs in a dignified manner,” he said.
Archbishop Tutu, who, like Mandela, won the Nobel Peace Prize for his role in the struggle against white minority rule, appealed to the family to overcome their differences.
“Please, please, please may we think not only of ourselves? It’s almost like spitting in Madiba’s face,” he said in a statement.
“Your anguish, now, is the nation’s anguish — and the world’s. We want to embrace you, to support you, to shine our love for Madiba through you. Please, may we not besmirch his name?”
There has been a long-running battle over Mandela’s legacy, that 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 be interred alongside them.