UN status for Madiba sites?

11 August 2014 - 02:00 By Simpiwe Piliso
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Winnie Madikizela-Mandela's claim of her ex-husband's homestead in Qunu, Eastern Cape was made after the National Heritage Council applied to have part of it declared a world heritage site.

Sources involved in the move to have the home declared a world heritage site said Nelson Mandela's family had been informed of this before an inspection of his grave site and other landmarks associated with him in January.

Whether Madikizela-Mandela was aware of the application or not could not be confirmed. Neither her spokesman Thato Mmereki nor her lawyer Mvuyo Notyesi were available for comment.

The council has applied to have Mandela's grave site submitted to UN cultural agency Unesco for consideration as a world heritage site.

Also included on the application are: Mqhekezweni, where Mandela was raised; Fort Hare University in Alice; and Groot Drakenstein prison (formerly Victor Verster prison) in Western Cape, where he served the final years of his jail time.

If Mandela's grave site is approved, the area would attract thousands of tourists, generating millions of rands for property owners. The Nelson Mandela Museum in Qunu attracted 55000 visitors since June last year , while 40000 people a month visited the Nelson Mandela Museum in Mthatha before it closed for renovations in 2011.

Heritage council spokesman Danny Goulkan could not comment on whether the council had begun talks with the Mandela family regarding its application to Unesco.

But in an earlier interview with The Times Goulkan said the council had yet to hold formal discussions with the family.

"The process of enlisting is long and complex. It involves extensive research and management plans of the sites. The council is in the research stage and will enter the consultation stage thereafter. The family will be critical in the consultation phase," he said.

But sources closely involved in the process said some family members, including Madikizela-Mandela, were aware of the move.

Last week, the Daily Dispatch reported that it had seen a letter from Madikizela-Mandela to deputy judge president Dikgang Moseneke, one of the executors of Madiba's estate, challenging his will. She argued that she had acquired the home for the couple in 1989 while Mandela was in prison and therefore, according to AbaThembu custom, the house belongs to her.

Madikizela-Mandela received nothing from Mandela's estate in February, while their daughters, Zenani and Zindzi, each received R3-million. Their children each got R100000. Madiba and Madikizela-Mandela's divorce was finalised in 1996 after 38 years of marriage.

Mandela's will stated that "the Qunu property should be used by my family in perpetuity in order to preserve the unity of the family".

In January, a delegation led by the heritage council inspected several sites associated with Mandela to assess their "readiness for their declaration as protected heritage properties".

Unesco spokesman Sue Williams said the heritage council had not yet submitted an application. She said how long it took to process and approve such applications varied.

There are about 926 world heritage sites in 145 countries. Table Mountain and the Cradle of Humankind are among them.

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