Nelson Mandela has abruptly called off a historic return to the prison from which he walked to freedom 20 years ago Thursday.
The decision to abandon his role in events celebrating the anniversary of his release from Victor Verster prison follows a dispute within his extended and fractious family on managing the movements of the increasingly frail former President, now aged 91.
Instead, his former wife Winnie Madikizela-Mandela and other stalwarts of the African National Congress (ANC), including the President of South Africa, Jacob Zuma, will lead a “symbolic” 500-yard march from the gates of the prison, now called the Drakenstein Correctional Centre, to the spot where a beaming Mr Mandela, his clenched fist raised in triumph, ended his 27-year-long incarceration.
Last week, Fikile Mbalula, the Deputy Police Minister, said that Mr Mandela would attend the commemoration outside the prison in an attempt to put an end to speculation that he was in such poor health that he would be unable to travel. “Madiba” — the clan name by which he is affectionately known — has not been seen in public for months.
On Tuesday, however, the ANC issued a terse statement saying that Mr Mandela would attend only the state opening of Parliament, held to coincide with the 20th anniversary of his release, this evening. The statement, signed by Jackson Mthembu, the ANC’s national spokesman, gave no reason for the apparent turnaround. Other ANC officials said that the event outside the prison was a party function centred on the theme of the Mandela legacy and had nothing to do with the Government, which had organised the opening of Parliament.
A source close to the family told The Times that tensions over Mr Mandela’s appearance had arisen between Ms Madikizela-Mandela and her daughter Zindzi, other members of the family, including his current wife, Graça Machel, and officials of the Nelson Mandela Foundation, who play the role of minders. To read full London Times story — Go Here Now.
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