(Reuters) – A feud between factions of Nelson Mandela’s family descended into soap opera farce on Thursday when his grandson and heir, Mandla, accused relatives of adultery and milking the fame of the revered anti-apartheid leader.

In a news conference broadcast live on TV that stunned South Africans, Mandla Mandela confirmed rumors that his young son, Zanethemba, was in fact the child of an illicit liaison between his brother Mbuso and Mandla’s now ex-wife Anais Grimaud.

With Mandela on life-support in a Pretoria hospital, the escalating feud has transfixed and appalled South Africa in equal measure as it contemplates the reality that the father of the post-apartheid “Rainbow Nation” will not be around forever.

“Mbuso impregnated my wife,” Mandla said in Mvezo, the Eastern Cape village 700 km (450 miles) south of Johannesburg where Mandela – now 94 years old and critically ill – was born and where Mandla serves as the formal chief of the clan.

Mandla, 39, first raised questions about his son’s paternity last year when he split from French-speaking Grimaud, who has since moved back home to the Indian Ocean island of Reunion. He also revealed then that he was unable to have children.

His attempts to get the family to address the questions of Zanethemba’s paternity had been rebuffed in the interests of preserving a semblance of unity in South Africa’s most famous family, Mandla said.

“This matter has never been discussed by the so-called members of the family who say that they want to ensure there is harmony in this family,” he said, challenging reporters to conduct DNA tests to confirm his allegations.

“The facts are there. You may go and find out, do the necessary tests that are needed,” he said. His brother Mbuso has denied being the father of the child.

Reuters picture of Mandla Mandela

 

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