Nelson Mandela canceled plans to attend today’s opening of the soccer World Cup in South Africa after one of his nine great-grandchildren died in a car crash while returning from a concert to celebrate the tournament.
“Mr. Nelson Mandela this morning learnt of the tragic death in an accident of his great-granddaughter, Zenani Mandela, 13,” the Nelson Mandela Foundation said in an e-mailed statement. “It would therefore be inappropriate for him to personally attend the FIFA World Cup opening celebrations.”
Mandela, 91, served for five years as president following South Africa’s first all-race elections in 1994. While he has largely retired from public life, he had been scheduled to put in a brief appearance at the first World Cup match, between South Africa and Mexico, starting at 4 p.m. local time, according to Bloomberg.
Zenani Mandela, 13, was killed in a car accident on the way home from a World Cup concert in Soweto on Thursday night, where tens of thousands of people had sung and danced with headline music stars Shakira and the Black Eyed Peas.
Mandela and his family were "torn up" by the accident, the foundation added. Mandela would be at the ceremony in spirit, a foundation spokesman added, The Associated Press says.