A judge in the Eastern Cape High Court, near the small, rural villages where Nelson Mandela was born and raised, ordered his eldest grandson on Wednesday to return the bodies of several family members to the village where Mr. Mandela, the former South African president and anti-apartheid leader, has said he wishes to be buried.
The feud over the bodies between the grandson, Mandla Mandela, and a coterie of other family members led by his eldest daughter, Makaziwe Mandela, has riveted the attention of South Africans as Mr. Mandela, 94, remained in critical condition in a Pretoria hospital, clinging to life.
A lawyer for the Mandela family said shortly after the ruling that they had received word that Mandla Mandela intended to continue to fight the court ruling.
Among the bodies are those of three of Nelson Mandela’s children: Mandla Mandela’s father, Makgatho Mandela, who died in 2005; his first daughter, also named Makaziwe, who died as an infant in 1948; and another son, Madiba Thembekile Mandela, who died in a traffic accident in 1969.
The judge gave the grandson just hours to begin exhuming the bodies in the village of Mvezo and returning them to the village of Qunu, the former president’s chosen burial site.
“It will remain a private matter,” Makaziwe Mandela told a cluster of journalists on the courthouse steps in Mthatha, refusing to comment further. A lawyer for the family, Wesley Hayes, was a bit more forthcoming, according to local media reports. “We are delighted with the outcome,” he said.
Mandla Mandela made no immediate comment.
The feud over the burial site erupted after a meeting of the entire family last week in Qunu as they prepared for Mr. Mandela’s funeral.
Family members said that Mandla Mandela had moved the bodies in 2011 from Qunu to Mvezo, where he is the head of the local tribal council, without their permission or knowledge, and that he refused to move them back.