Mandela family fights over control of his legacy

Nelson Mandela's grandson Mandla at the burial. Picture: AP
Nelson Mandela's grandson Mandla at the burial. Picture: AP
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HE WAS a symbol of peace and reconciliation. But it appears the legacy of Nelson Mandela, who built bridges with former apartheid foes after 27 years in prison, does not extend to his own ­family.

Feuding relatives are said to have locked out his grandson Mandla Mandela from the family homestead four days before the former South African president was buried there.

Mandla is also reported to have found his home on the Mandela estate without electricity and water on the day of the burial.

The Johannesburg Times reported that locks at Mr Mandela’s home in the Eastern Cape hamlet of Qunu were changed shortly after his eldest daughter, Makaziwe Mandela, arrived there last week.

At the time, Mandla, 39, was keeping vigil next to his grandfather’s coffin while the body lay in state in Pretoria for three days.

He escorted the coffin to Qunu on Saturday for Mr Mandela’s funeral the following day.

Yesterday, Mandla’s spokesman said: “He doesn’t want to confirm nor deny the report. He wants to focus on promoting and upholding the legacy of his grandfather going forward.”

Mandla and Makaziwe, 59, have been involved in a bitter spat over the control of Mr Mandela’s legacy and leadership of the fractured family.

The newspaper report said that following Mr Mandela’s death on 5 December water and lights at Mandla’s house on the estate were disconnected late on Saturday. The occupants, including Mandla, had no water when they awoke on Sunday.

It quoted witnesses saying Makaziwe had told Mandla that he must remove his cattle, pigs and dogs from the homestead.

Makaziwe, the daughter of Mr Mandela and first wife Evelyn Mase, has positioned herself as the head of the family – a role Mandla, whose father was Mr Mandela’s second son – feels is naturally his.

Relatives, politicians and religious leaders aligned to Mandla were also sidelined and refused accreditation for the funeral. Traditional family rituals, scheduled to be held in Mvezo, a town near Qunu, where Mandla is Madiba clan chief, were also cancelled.

No transport to the funeral was provided for Mandla’s mother, Nolusapho, or her sister. They were brought there after a member of the family sent a text to Mandla telling him of the situation. Nolusapho was reportedly in tears.

Makaziwe oversaw family preparations for the funeral.

Makaziwe and Mandla locked horns earlier this year when Mandla moved the remains of his father and two other relatives to Mvezo, Mr Mandela’s birthplace and where Mandla is tribal chief.

With Makaziwe spearheading the campaign to have those remains exhumed, Mandla was forced by a court order to return them to Qunu, where Mr Mandela grew up and where he had expressed a wish to be buried.

There have been other disputes among Mr Mandela’s children and grandchildren over control of his legacy and property, including the right to use Mr Mandela’s name and image for profit, and over who will inherit his trust funds.

His estate, which includes a trust partly funded from the sale of his handprints and of the 46664 brand – his prison number on Robben Island – are believed to be worth millions.

More hostilities are expected over Mr Mandela’s will, the contents of which have not been made public.

“In due course, there will be public statements and the contents of the will be published,” said George Bizos, a family friend and the lawyer entrusted by Mr Mandela with protecting his legacy. “But don’t press either members of the family or any of us to tell you what is in the will. It’s a sacred document.”