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Nelson Mandela's grandson in court on rape charges

Nelson Mandela's grandson in court on rape charges
A sculpture of Nelson Mandela stands outside the Johannesburg courthouse where one of his grandsons appeared on rape charges on Aug. 21. (Themba Hadebe / Associated Press)

In the latest scandal to hit Nelson Mandela's family, a grandson of the late South African president appeared in court Friday on charges of raping a 15-year-old girl.

Mbuso Mandela, 24, is accused of following the girl into the bathroom of a popular restaurant in Greenside, a trendy suburb north of Johannesburg, and assaulting her two weeks ago. He says the sex was consensual, according to his lawyer.

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He was remanded to custody pending a bail hearing next week.

Prominent members of the Mandela family were in the Johannesburg courtroom Friday to support the accused.

A spokesman for the girl's family accused Nelson Mandela's second wife, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, of trying to keep the case out of court, saying she had asked them to give her family time to deal with the issue.

The unidentified spokesman told South Africa's Daily Sun newspaper that a purported policemen had visited the girl's parents and told them there was no need to have the suspect arrested.

When the girl's father asked to see the man's police identification, he had none, according to the spokesman, who told the paper that the man turned out to be one of Madikizela-Mandela's bodyguards.

Madikizela-Mandela has not commented on the claims.

Rapes of minors are disturbingly commonplace in South Africa. This week, six boys were accused of raping two 7-year-old girls at a primary school in Vosloorus. In June, four girls ages 7 to 9 were allegedly raped by four older boys at another primary school near Pretoria.

Mbuso Mandela's lawyer, Nico Swart, told the court that his client believed the girl he was accused of raping was 16 — the legal age of consent in South Africa — because her birth date was listed on Facebook as being in February 1999.

Magistrate Pieter Du Plessis called for the girl's identity documents to be produced for the court's review.

Swart asked the court for time to locate a witness, an Indian migrant in the country illegally who apparently looked through a window and witnessed the incident. The judge postponed the bail hearing until Tuesday.

Nelson Mandela was revered in South Africa and around the world for his efforts to promote racial reconciliation and peace, but members of his family have frequently courted controversy.

There was the family feud over the bones of three of Mandela's children, which erupted shortly before his death in 2013 and had to be resolved in court.

In March, another grandson, Mandla Mandela, was convicted of assaulting a schoolteacher in a road-rage incident.

Yet another grandson, Zondwa Mandela, was found by a court in June to be liable for damages for the ruin of a gold mine he helped manage.

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More than four years ago, Madikizela-Mandela and her bodyguards were involved in an altercation with two police officers who pulled over her car for allegedly speeding on the way to a funeral. The officers were charged with intimidation but were acquitted.

For more news from South Africa, follow @RobynDixon_LAT on Twitter

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