Tug of War Over Mandela Ends With Tragedy

As I noted a few days ago, the pressure on the Mandela family to get Madiba to the World Cup opening ceremonies had been building over the last ten days.

The more FIFA, in the form of General Factotum Sepp Blatter, endlessly repeated the "This is Mandelas' tournament and it would be very very sad if he did not attend", the more the family dug in their heels and said no.

The government and the ANC both tried the tactic familiar to parents of four year olds who earnestly that "today is Chirstmas" on December 10 because saying it obviously makes it so, both issued statements declaring that the ex-President would indeed attend, and again the family responded "No, he's really not".

Finally, on Tuesday, they relented and allowed that the old man would make a kind of cameo appearance someplace in the stadium sometime before the game. Or something.

He would "greet" some people - you can be damned sure that Sepp Blatter and as many FIFA Ex-Co members as could be jammed into the room would be first in line - for "about 15 minutes" and then leave and watch the game from his home.

Then last night: a tragedy.

Mandelas' 13 yer old great granddaughter Zenani was returning home from the "All Star Spectacular Concert" in Joburg in a car driven by another family member who was reportedly drunk.

The car overturned and Zenani was killed, less than 12 hours before opening kick.

Early this morning Madibas' foundation issued a statement:

"Mr Nelson Mandela this morning learned of the tragic death in an accident of his great-granddaughter

"It would therefore be inappropriate for him to personally attend the FIFA World Cup opening celebrations.

"We are sure that South Africans and people all over the world will stand in solidarity with Mr Mandela and his family in the aftermath of this tragedy... Madiba will be there with you in spirit today."

This sad incident gave additional poignancy to the front page of the mass circulation Daily Sun this morning, which showed a photo of Mandela holding the World Cup trophy below the words:

"Do It for Him".