12/01/2018 06:32 SAST | Updated 12/01/2018 06:32 SAST

Awkward... ANC NEC Turned Away From Mandela's Gravesite

The NEC was eventually given permission to visit the site, but only in February.

Yves Herman / Reuters
Former President Nelson Mandela's grandson Mandla stands during a send-off ceremony for Nelson Mandela at Waterkloof Air Force base in Pretoria December 14, 2013.

A planned visit to Nelson Mandela's grave at Qunu in the Eastern Cape on Thursday did not quite go according to plan when party leaders, expecting to be allowed to visit the resting place of the icon, were turned away. According to Daily Maverick, they were later allowed into the Mandela home by the Mandela family, but could not visit the gravesite as the appropriate rituals had not been performed.

The ANC NEC members intended to visit Mandela's grave on Thursday as part of the lead-up to the party's 106th birthday celebrations. Mandela is being honoured this year by the party as it would have been in 100th birthday.

But NEC members were reportedly turned away from the gravesite. They were eventually allowed in by Mandela's grandson, Chief Mandla Mandela, who represented the family, but only the ANC's top six was allowed in.

Times Live reported that Mandla said the other NEC members were later allowed in "and were given breakfast like everybody else".

Mandla reportedly gave a statement explaining that Mandela's wife, Graça Machel, had given him instructions to allow the delegation to visit the site. But the family had decided that the visit would only take place on February 11, the day Mandela was released from prison in 1990.

There were a number of rituals that needed to take place first before the ANC members could visit the gravesite, Mandela reportedly explained. This included the slaughtering of an ox.

"The family has agreed to observe the protocol and traditions and therefore will go to Nkosi Dalibhunga's [Nelson Mandela] resting place and inform him and the ancestors of the visit of the entire ANC leadership that will take place on February 11. They will be hosted by the family in Qunu‚" he reportedly explained.

Before the visit, the Daily Dispatch reported that the ANC was in consultation with the Mandela family about the visit to the grave site which remains closed to the public, adding to speculation about why they were turned away on the day of the visit.

According to Daily Maverick, some community members at Qunu said the rituals outlined by the Mandela family were not necessary, and there is speculation that Mandela used the opportunity to stamp the family's authority over the former statesman's legacy.

ANC spokesperson Zizi Kodwa told The Dispatch that the party planned to visit the grave sites of other ANC leaders, too, to thank the spirit of their ancestors for guiding the ANC.