Mandela to give World Cup opening ceremony a miss

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.

Zeenews Bureau

Johannesburg: Former South African president Nelson Mandela has decided not to attend the FIFA World Cup 2010 opening ceremony.

In a statement, the Nelson Mandela Foundation said it would be inappropriate for Mandela to attend the opening celebrations after the death of his great grand-daughter Zenani Mandela.

However, Mandela will be at the ceremony in spirit, said the foundation.

Mandela`s great grand-daughter was killed in a car crash on Friday hours before the World Cup kicks off in South Africa, a tragic note amid revelry for the biggest sports event the continent has held.

Former president Mandela, 91, is credited with helping South Africa win the World Cup bid in 2004 as well as ending apartheid, and South Africans wanted him to be at the opening match between the hosts and Mexico despite his frail health.

Zenani Mandela, killed two days after her 13th birthday, was one of Mandela`s nine great-grandchildren. The car crashed after a concert by a bevy of international and local stars at a stadium in the Soweto township outside Johannesburg.

"The family has asked for privacy as they mourn this tragedy," the Nelson Mandela Foundation said.

Mandela`s ex-wife Winnie Madikizela-Mandela was in the car, the South African Press Association quoted police as saying. Police spokesman Noxolo Kweza said the driver had been arrested and police were investigating a case of culpable homicide.

Zenani was a grand-daughter of Zindzi Mandela, Nelson Mandela and Winnie Madikizela-Mandela`s daughter.

The death cast a cloud on the unprecedented rush of excitement in South Africa, which was tormented for years by negative and even domestic pessimism that the world`s most watched sporting event was too big for Africa to handle.

That pessimism has been transformed in recent weeks and South Africans of all races can scarcely contain their pride at being in the world spotlight.

Successfully hosting this tournament for the first time in Africa will mean much more for the hosts than just sport.

Racial reconciliation, the affirmation of an often troubled post-apartheid nation, future investment and millions of tourist dollars could be at stake.

It is also a symbol of Africa`s emergence from decades stereotyped as a continent of disaster, conflict and failure into a dynamic region winning ever-increasing foreign investment.

The once-improbable dream kicks off later on Friday when Mexico face the host nation in Johannesburg`s 90,000-seat Soccer City stadium.

(With Agencies’ inputs)

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