With Mandela in hospital, family feuds, pols squabble

Family infighting as Mandela remains hospital... 02:01

(CBS News) PRETORIA, South Africa - The tributes and prayers for Nelson Mandela pouring in from around the world mask a number of family feuds and political squabbles unfolding behind the scenes.

Mandela's hospital stay has now moved into its fourth week, and a certain routine has developed: The choirs come, the crowds arrive, the days tick by, the news from inside the hospital on Mandela's condition goes from bad to worse, and sometimes - on the good days - back to bad again.

It's all become an almost mystical process involving, not just a very ill, old man, but a warring family - his - politics and a dispute over ancient customs.

Mandela has long said he wants to be buried in the family plot in the countryside, alongside other Mandelas, including three of his own deceased children.

But some of those remains have been moved to another cemetery nearby. One branch of the family is now suing another to get the bodies moved back so that, when the time comes, Nelson Mandela can rest in peace.

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And the family friction takes other forms. No one has been willing or able to decide how much medical intervention to continue to provide, and so the machines continue to sustain him.

For well-connected observers like Johannesburg University Vice Chancellor Adam Habib, it's an undignified closing chapter to an otherwise glorious life.

"I must say that South Africans have approached the shenanigans of the family with, at some times, distaste, sometimes a sense of unfortunate- a sense that they besmirch him," Habib said, describing it as unseemly.

And into this paralysis has come the ANC, South Africa's ruling party, accused of using the attention on Mandela's illness for electioneering.

President Obama, who arrived in South Africa Friday, will soon be gone, but Nelson Mandela, with all that's going on around him, is still here.

  • Mark Phillips, CBS News London correspondent
    Mark Phillips

    Mark Phillips is CBS News senior foreign correspondent based in London.