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Mandela and Winnie attend great-granddaughter's funeral

Nelson Mandela and his ex-wife Winnie Madikizela-Mandela today went to the funeral of their great-granddaughter who was killed in a car accident after a World Cup concert.

world Updated: Jun 17, 2010 16:51 IST

Nelson Mandela and his ex-wife Winnie Madikizela-Mandela on Thursday went to the funeral of their great-granddaughter who was killed in a car accident after a World Cup concert.

Mandela, South Africa's first black president, who is now 91 and in frail health, arrived with his wife Graca and was helped to a seat in the front row. His former wife, Winnie, 73, arrived separately.

Hundreds of mourners attended the funeral of 13-year-old Zenani Mandela, whose death just hours before the first game made the whole country pause from its World Cup festivities to mourn with the Mandela family.

The funeral was held at her school and followed a private burial service.

Two screens in the front of the chapel showed pictures of Zenani set to the classic Bill Withers' soul song "Lean on Me".

The service was to include tributes from school friends and family and a performance by the Soweto gospel choir.

Mandela now rarely appears in public. He cancelled an appearance at the World Cup opening game in Johannesburg on Friday after learning of the fatal accident.

Two days after her 13th birthday, Zenani was in a car that flipped over on a central Johannesburg highway while returning from a World Cup concert the night before the kick-off.

The driver, 23-year-old Sizwe Mankazana, was close to the family but now faces charges of drunk driving and culpable homicide.

Madikizela-Mandela, her great-grandmother, was so devastated upon hearing the news that she was briefly taken to hospital for treatment for shock.

The public was invited to grieve with the family in the chapel at St Stithian's College, the elite Methodist school north of Johannesburg where Zenani was in the sixth grade and a member of the choir.

She played the piano and the saxophone, and participated in a marimba group and drumming band at school.

The teenager loved reading and writing, enjoyed making pancakes and scrambled eggs, and set up beauty pageants with her friends, according to a profile supplied by the Mandela Foundation, which acts as the official office for the Nobel laureate.

During the final of the Confederations Cup last year, she carried the trophy to the pitch and placed it on the podium before it was presented to Brazil.

She had recently said she wanted to become a plastic surgeon.

Zenani was the daughter of Zoleka Mandela-Seakamela and Casey Moyo, and her grandmother is Zindzi Mandela, the former president's daughter.

The driver of the car is the son of Zwelakhe Mankazana, the partner of Zindzi's sister Zenani Mandela-Dlamini.

He had been expected in court last Friday, but his case was put off until July 26 - two weeks after the World Cup ends - to allow police further time to investigate.

"I deeply regret the loss of our little Zeni. I ask that your thoughts and prayers be with her family and friends during this very difficult time," Mankazana said in a statement.

Nelson Mandela remains beloved in South Africa for leading the fight against the white-minority apartheid government, a struggle that kept him in prison for 27 years before his election in 1994 as the country's first black president.

His private life has been marked by a long history of heartache.

One daughter died as an infant. An adult son died in a car accident while Mandela was in prison, and another died of an AIDS-related illness in 2005.