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South Africa pauses for funeral of Mandela's great-granddaughter

world Updated: Jun 17, 2010 15:50 IST

Nelson Mandela is expected to attend the funeral on Thursday of his great-granddaughter Zenani Mandela, who was killed in a car accident coming home from a concert on the eve of the World Cup.

South Africa paused from its World Cup festivities to mourn with the family Thursday morning ahead of the funeral, which will be held at 10:00 am (0800 GMT) at Zenani's school.

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

At 91, the increasingly frail Mandela rarely appears in public. He cancelled a scheduled appearance at the opening ceremony of the World Cup in Johannesburg's Soccer City stadium Friday after learning of the accident.

Zenani was killed when her car 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.

Zenani died just two days after her 13th birthday, casting a shadow over the World Cup opening as the family mourned.

Her great-grandmother, 73-year-old anti-apartheid icon Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, was so devastated upon hearing the news that she was briefly taken to hospital for treatment of 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 she 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 young girl 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.