JOHANNESBURG (AP) As former South African president Nelson Mandela remains on life support in a Pretoria hospital, family members continue to fight over burial details.
Mandela, who was hospitalized on June 8, remains in critical but stable condition, according to the office of President Jacob Zuma, who visited the anti-apartheid leader Thursday. The president's office also said doctors denied reports that Mandela, 94, is in a ''vegetative state.''
A court paper filed June 27 concerning Mandela family graves said affidavits would be provided from his physicians to show that Mandela "is in a permanent vegetative state." A later filing dropped that phrase. Both court filings, however, said that Mandela's breathing was machine-assisted.
The former president's health is "perilous," according to a separate court affidavit filed this week. "The anticipation of his impending death is based on real and substantial grounds," the documents said.
Many South Africans are bracing for the death of the man they credit with bringing freedom to their country, as well as reconciliation following the demise of the race-based apartheid regime. Locals say it is time to let him go.
"What more do South Africans want?" said Bantu Dubazana, 22, an economics student. "He has given us his life. We need to stop being selfish and let him go peacefully."
At the same time, local residents expressed disgust over the drama surrounding his death — in particular where Mandela is to be buried, and whom he is to be buried with.
"It's a disgrace," said Jenny Chidoba, 52, a bookseller. "Mandela has a good reputation and what they are doing is bringing shame to the family name."
Mandela has always insisted that his grave should be in Qunu, the village where he grew up and retired to years ago. But according to local media reports, his grandson Mandla caused tensions by exhuming the bodies of Mandela's three late children and moving them to the nearby village of Mvezo, where he is chief.
Following a court order issued this week, police moved Mandela's children's remains back to their original resting place in the family burial plot where he is expected to join them upon his death.
The family feuding drew a rebuke late Thursday from retired archbishop Desmond Tutu who appealed to the family of Mandela, also known by his clan name Madiba, to overcome their differences.
"Please, please, please may we think not only of ourselves. It's almost like spitting in Madiba's face," Tutu said in a statement released by his foundation. "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."
Meanwhile, the decision on how long Mandela will remain on life support has been left to his family, given the ailing former president does not have a living will, according to local media reports, despite being friends with lawyer George Bizos, who presided over his 1956 treason trial.
"I'm a little surprised at the discussion that's going on at the moment," said Jan-Bart Gewald, a historian specializing in the social history of South Africa at the African Studies Center in the Netherlands.
"Mandela was a lawyer, Bizos is a very good lawyer, and I'm sure they must have thought about this before he got ill."
Last month, it was revealed in court that Mandela's daughters, Makaziwe Mandela and Zenani Dlamini, were trying to defy the wishes of their father by attempting to access the family's trust of $1.3 million. Mandela has expressed over the years that this money was intended to last for generations.
Other members of the family have been accused of trying to cash in on the Mandela name by participating in a 13-episode reality television show, "Being Mandela," which is running on local NBC station, Cozi TV.
"I think the time has come that people are going to try and cash in on his magic, and you see this already within the family," Gewald said. "This is only just going to get worse."