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Tragedy Hits Mandelas on Eve of World Cup in South Africa

Published on Saturday 12th June 2010 Tragedy Hits Mandelas on Eve of World Cup in South Africa

Nelson Mandela's family was struck by tragedy on the eve of the opening of the 2010 World Cup soccer tournament, forcing him to withdraw from the opening ceremony.

The Nelson Mandela Foundation announced that Mandela had learned on Friday morning that his great-granddaughter, 13-year-old Zenani Mandela, had been killed in a car accident on Thursday night.

"It would therefore be inappropriate for him to personally attend the... opening celebrations," the foundation said. "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."

The South African Press Association reported that the accident occurred after Zenani had returned from the World Cup kickoff concert on Thursday night. It quoted police as saying that the driver of the car was arrested and would appear in court on charges of drunken driving and culpable homicide.

Zenani was the grandchild of Zindzi Mandela, one of two daughters of Nelson Mandela and his former wife, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela.

There was uncertainty in the days leading up to Friday's opening of the tournament over whether Mandela, 91, would attend.

His personal role in the campaign to win the right to stage the World Cup is widely accepted among South Africans as being instrumental to its success.

However, the former president has withdrawn from public life and rarely makes public appearances. The foundation and the ruling African National Congress clashed ahead of last year's elections when the party flew Mandela to an election rally to support President Jacob Zuma, allegedly without sufficient advance planning for medical emergencies.

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