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Mon Sep 01 13:27:02 SAST 2014

Mandelas at war

SABELO SKITI and SIMPIWE PILISO | 17 December, 2013 00:00
Mandla Mandela. File photo
Image by: YVES HERMAN / REUTERS

Four days before Nelson Mandela's funeral, relatives muscled in and pushed out his "heir-apparent" - Mandla Mandela - from the family's homestead in Qunu, Eastern Cape.

The Times has established that locks were changed at Nelson Mandela's Tuscan-style home shortly after his eldest daughter, Makaziwe Mandela, 59, arrived on Thursday.

Attempts by Mandela's widow, Graça Machel, and George Bizos, a close family friend and top human rights lawyer, to quell the feud over the Nobel p eace laureate's estate have repeatedly failed.

Since Mandela's death on December 5 it has emerged that:

  • Water and lights at Mandla's house on the Mandela estate were disconnected late on Saturday. The occupants, including Mandla, had no water when they awoke on Sunday;
  • Makaziwe had told Mandla, 39, that he must remove his cattle, pigs and dogs from the homestead;
  • Relatives, politicians and religious leaders aligned to Mandla were sidelined and refused accreditation for Sunday's funeral;
  • Traditional family rituals, scheduled to be held in Mvezo, where Mandla is Madiba clan chief, were cancelled; and
  • In a deliberate snub, no transport to the funeral was provided for Mandla's mother, Nolusapho, or for her sister. They were brought to the funeral after a member of the family sent an SMS to Mandla telling him of the situation. Nolusapho was in tears, according to a witness.

A further outbreak of hostilities is expected over 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 Bizos.

"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."

Makaziwe, who is said to wield great influence in the family, oversaw the family's preparations for Mandela's funeral.

Sources close to the family said some of Mandela's relatives found that the locks had been changed at the Qunu homestead when they arrived on Friday.

Mandla had been standing vigil at his grandfather's coffin at the Union Buildings, in Pretoria, while the body lay in state for three days. He escorted the coffin to Qunu on Saturday. He had been in Gauteng since Mandela's death.

"His access and free rein in the house were limited," said a source.

Mandla and Makaziwe have been involved in a public spat over the control of Mandela's legacy and leadership of the fractured family.

Mandla and his lawyer and royal adviser, Matthew Mpahlwa, refused to comment on the events leading up to the funeral and the feud that threatens to rip the family apart.

Makaziwe - who led a campaign to exhume the remains of Mandela's children in Mvezo - could not be reached for comment yesterday.

In June, Mandla was accused of moving the remains of Mandela's three children from Qunu in 2011 and taking them to Mvezo in an effort to ensure that the statesman would be buried in Mvezo.

Makaziwe, Graça Machel and 14 other family members took Mandla to court, petitioning for an order that he return the remains.

Yesterday, a source said that family members were shocked that Makaziwe was seen walking around the estate, giving orders, instead of confining herself to the house, as is customary.

"I've never seen anything like it. It was like she was possessed. She was all over the place and didn't care who anyone was," the source said.

The source related the circumstances of the failure to arrange transport to the funeral for Mandla's mother.

"There were five people there, including her, when they were told to walk. What she [Makaziwe] did to Mandla was the most disrespectful thing," the source said.

Last week, the UK Sunday Times reported that, when the statesman's former adviser, Jakes Gerwel, visited the family home last year he was surprised and disgusted to find two of Mandela's daughters noisily arguing over who would get which piece of furniture and which kitchen appliances when he died.

The two unnamed daughters, according to the UK newspaper, seemed to care little that Mandela was sitting nearby.

His children and grandchildren have for months been engaged in toxic disputes about who will inherit not just his chattels but also the lucrative "Mandela brand" and the right to use it for profit.

Mandela's 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.

The future of his Qunu homestead could also be a focus of the family dispute.

The fighting, which continued on Friday and Saturday, contradicts media reports on Sunday that the family had agreed to put their differences aside until after the funeral.

Family sources said that the morning after Mandela's death Machel called most of the family to a meeting at which "she was clear and frank [and said that there must be] no more fighting".

On Saturday, Bizos told journalists that "every one of them expresses regret for the differences there may have been among them . and I heard all of them say that [Mandela's] passing is a good opportunity for them to shake hands and be a united family".

Earlier this year, Makaziwe and Zenani, two of Mandela's daughters, took Bizos to court in an attempt to seize control of a trust fund under his management.

The fund, set up to care for Mandela's heirs in perpetuity, generated millions of rands from his handprints, which reportedly sell for more than $35900 each.

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