Joy to sadness
AFTER months of preparations for the rite of passage into manhood for former president Nelson Mandela's grandson Bambatha, the celebrations were dampened by the hospitalisation last week of the ailing political icon.
Sources close to the Mandela family in Qunu in the Eastern Cape, where the ceremony was due to be held yesterday, said the Madiba clan members were crossing fingers that he would be released at the weekend.
The ceremony was postponed to today in the hope that this would happen.
"Now Bambatha is disappointed that his grandfather could not be here to celebrate this huge milestone of his life. There is nothing we can do but continue as we don't know when tata will be discharged," says the family member.
"Tata's been present, since his release, at all his grandchildren's ceremonies. This is the first time we miss his presence among us."
Bambatha is the son of Zindzi, one of Mandela's two daughters with his ex-wife Winnie Madikizela-Mandela.
Another close source says due Mandela's poor health, the family decided that the celebrations would continue without him.
"Mandela enjoys these kinds of family gatherings especially when one of the boys returns from the mountain," adds the source.
The ceremony has been kept from the media. Bambatha's brother Zondwa "Gaddafi" Mandela says the custom is not normally shared with the public.
Family insiders say that, as is the norm every December since Mandela moved to Qunu, family members gather for a weekend in December to celebrate the festive season with him.
"Bambatha's coming-of-age ceremony was supposed to coincide with the yearly visit by family members, but now that tata is sick we had to change our plans," says our source.
When Sunday World reached Qunu to witness preparations for Madiba's hoped for homecoming on Friday, joy and laughter prevailed as Chief Mandla Mandela welcomed the streaming guests. Family elder Napilisi Mandela lead the rites.
Preparations for the umgcamo (meat-eating rite) ceremony were under way. A few sheep and a goat were slaughtered.
A number of men braaied meat, sang traditional isiXhosa songs and danced.
Among those present were Mandela's other grandsons, Chief Mandla, Ndaba, and the children of Makgatho Mandela, Mandela's son from his first wife Evelyn.
The media was barred from coming near the Mandela residence and security at the gate included two officers on duty.
"I don't feel comfortable dancing and drinking in Mandela's house today," neighbour Sindiswa Mbokodi said.
His sentiment seems to have been prophetic: the Presidency announced yesterday afternoon that Madiba was to remain in hospital and the celebratory spirits in Qunu cooled considerably.
Journalists had also converged at Mandela's Houghton home as speculation was rife that he would be released to his Joburg home before going to Qunu. They are still camping there.
Mandela was hospitalised with a lung infection and has successfully undergone a procedure to have gallstones removed, the Presidency said yesterday.
Meanwhile, the funeral of Nowongile Saphokazi Mandela, the wife of one of Mandela's grandsons, Stanford Mandela, was held in Qunu yesterday.