The bitter family feud comes as Mandela remains in critical condition nearly a month after being hospitalized for a recurring lung infection.
Mlawu Tyatyeka, an expert on the Xhosa culture of Mandela's family, said the court case over the graves was decided quickly because the family knows that Mandela will soon die.
“It's not a case of wishing him to die. It's a case of making sure that by the time he dies, his dying wish has been fulfilled,” he said. “We have a belief that should you ignore a dying wish, all bad will befall you.”
Meanwhile, Mandela's wife said the former president is sometimes uncomfortable but seldom in pain while being treated in a hospital.
Graca Machel spoke about her husband's condition at a fundraising drive for a children's hospital that will be named after the 94-year-old anti-apartheid leader.
“Whatever is the outcome of his stay in hospital, that will remain the second time where he offered his nation an opportunity to be united under the banner of our flag, under the banner of our constitution,” she said.
Mandela, who was hospitalized on June 8, remains in critical but stable condition, according to a statement Thursday by President Jacob Zuma's office. Zuma visited Mandela Thursday, said the statement.
Mandela was imprisoned for 27 years during white racist rule and was freed in 1990 before being elected president in all-race elections. He won the Nobel Peace Prize along with former President F.W. de Klerk.
Associated Press reporters Christopher Torchia and Carley Petesch in Johannesburg contributed to this report.