JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — Nelson Mandela’s 13-year-old great-granddaughter was killed in a car crash on the way home from a concert in Soweto on the eve of the World Cup, his office said Friday.
The Nelson Mandela Foundation said Zenani Mandela died in a one-car accident after attending the World Cup kickoff concert at the Orlando Stadium.
The foundation said later Mandela would not attend Friday’s World Cup opening ceremony and game in Johannesburg, dashing South Africans’ hopes the frail 91-year-old former president would make a rare appearance. Mandela and his family were “torn up” by the accident, the foundation added. Mandela would be at the ceremony in spirit, a foundation spokesman added.
Johannesburg Metro police spokeswoman Edna Mamonyane said the driver of the car, a man, had been arrested and charged with drink-driving. Mamonyane said the driver, who police would not name, could also face culpable homicide charges.
“The Metro police found that he was drunk,” Mamonyane said. “He lost control of the vehicle and it collided with a barricade.”
The Mandela foundation has also denied reports that the former president’s ex-wife Winnie Madikizela-Mandela was in the car.
“She was not in the car,” foundation spokesman Sello Hatang told the AP.
Hatang asked that the Mandela family be given space to mourn, adding that Winnie Madikizela-Mandela was treated for shock at a hospital after being informed of the accident and the death of her great-granddaughter. Hatang said Madikizela-Mandela was admitted “for a few hours” and had now been released.
Thursday’s World Cup concert had drawn tens of thousands of people to Soweto, and traffic was congested into the early hours Friday.
Zenani, who celebrated her 13th birthday June 9, was one of the anti-apartheid icon’s nine great-grandchildren.
“The family has asked for privacy as they mourn this tragedy,” the foundation said in a statement.
Mandela, who turns 92 on July 18, has largely retired from public life although it had been anticipated he would make a brief appearance at the World Cup opening ceremony Friday, depending on his health and the weather conditions.
In a statement Thursday, the Foundation said it had been “inundated with requests for meetings, and it will be impossible for Mr. Mandela to accede to even a small fraction of these.” But Mandela met this week with members of the Black Eyed Peas, one of the main acts at Thursday’s concert, and Portugal captain Cristiano Ronaldo and coach Carlos Queiroz — the latter a former coach of South Africa.