London: Former South African president Nelson Mandela may have fathered an illegitimate daughter, his foundation has claimed.
It has been alleged that Mandela fathered the child following a brief affair with a woman he met in Cape Town, in 1945.
Mpho Pule spent almost 12 years battling to see the man she believed was her father but died just a month before his office wrote to say that they were close to confirming her claim.
Now her children are continuing her fight to be recognised as the seventh child fathered by the former apartheid-era freedom fighter.
Verne Harris, a spokesman for the Nelson Mandela Foundation, said that Pule`s claim matched the documentary record of his life, but stressed that only a DNA test would provide absolute confirmation.
"This is the point at which we hand the matter over to the family," the Telegraph quoted Harris as saying.
While the allegation that the former South African president, 92, was unfaithful while married is not new, no claim of paternity is ever known to have been confirmed.
Pule, a former bakery worker and mother of six from a township near the Free State city of Bloemfontein, is said to have found out who her father was from her grandmother in 1998.
She told her that Mandela had conducted a brief affair with her mother Seipati Jane Monakali in Cape Town in 1945 by which time he had been married to his first wife, Evelyn, for a year and already had a son.
Monakali died in 1992 without revealing her secret.
Pule is reported to have repeatedly contacted the foundation in the hope of meeting her father.
Her calls and letters went unanswered until last October, when the foundation wrote to say it had "verified" the information she had sent them and asking her to contact them. Unfortunately, Mrs Pule had died of a stroke a month earlier.
Her family are now waiting to hear from Mr Mandela`s daughter Zindzi, who is said to be handling the claim.
No one from Mr Mandela``s family could be reached for comment.