Mandla Mandela the 'dictator'

09 October 2011 - 03:19 By Sunday Times

Mandla Mandela declares war on villagers fighting his 'land grabs'

Fear and loathing have gripped Nelson Mandela's home village of Mvezo, where his grandson, Chief Mandla Mandela, stands accused of stealing villagers' land - and trying to move grave sites - to build a multimillion-rand hotel and stadium.

And, in a dramatic development on Friday, Sunday Times journalist Bongani Mthethwa and photographer Thembinkosi Dwayisa were held hostage for more than eight hours by Mandla at his homestead, Mvezo Great Place.

He accused the Sunday Times team of trespassing - at a meeting where he was addressing community members - and of stealing a picture of his newborn son. The picture was supplied by a family member and published in the Sunday Times last month.

The release of the two men was secured only after the newspaper obtained a court order which instructed police officers to be dispatched to Mvezo Great Place to ensure their release.

In an urgent court application filed in the Mthatha Regional Court, meanwhile, three villagers, representing more than 100 people, accused Mandla of expropriating their land - which their families have owned since 1910, according to title deeds - for the luxury developments. In strongly worded affidavits they accuse him of acting like "God" and treating them like "dogs", and have threatened "bloodshed" should his behaviour continue.

The Sunday Times had gone to Mvezo to get Mandla's comments on the court case.

Mandla, an ANC MP, is also a traditional leader of Mvezo, where he has for some time tried to attract development in a bid to boost its image as a tourist destination.

Last month villagers Mtshutshisi Tyalakhulu, Kwedini Diniso and Bhito Fothi were startled to find their homesteads and family grave sites being fenced inside the proposed construction site.

On September 28 Mthatha lawyer Alex Gwabeni filed the urgent application to halt the "land grabs".

The order was granted two days later by magistrate Ronnie Lesele. It interdicts Mandla from fencing the land owned by the families.

Mandla has yet to be served with the order. He is scheduled to appear in court on November 9 to argue why it should not be made final.

Tyalakhulu, Diniso and Fothi this week claimed that anyone who opposed Mandla's "development schemes" in the village was intimidated and ostracised.

On Friday morning at a meeting to discuss the legal challenge, Mandla declared "war" on the families.

"This is war. This is not the time to fold our hands. If you want to fight with me you must face me and not do so in corners," he said.

Earlier he had summoned villagers to publicly reprimand Tyalakhulu, Diniso, Fothi and their families for taking him to court and challenging his development.

After being identified, the Sunday Times team of Mthethwa and Dwayisa, who were among the more than 200 villagers at the meeting, were bundled to the front of the crowd by about 50 men armed with knobkerries.

Mandla accused them of trespassing and of conspiring with the families determined to disrupt his development.

Carrying a knobkerrie and pacing back and forth in front of the angry crowd, he instructed the villagers to determine Mthethwa and Dwayisa's fate.

"This is going to be a long weekend which calls for the slaughtering of a bull," he said. "The ancestors have brought these men to us ... our ancestors work in miracles," said the Rhodes University political science graduate.

After quizzing the two for a few hours, Mandla left for Madiba's homestead in Qunu, where he was scheduled to meet his grandfather that evening.

The Sunday Times team was held by Mandla's council for eight hours in total. They were denied access to water, food and toilets and were barred from leaving by the armed mob.

In the court papers filed by the villagers in the matter of the fenced-off land, affidavits by the three men describe Mandela's grandson as behaving like a "dictator" and "God Almighty".

Tyalakhulu, a financial officer, said many families in Mvezo were "too scared to complain" about his behaviour.

He said Mandla was not prepared to listen to their grievances and "he now declares that he has nothing to say to us, uneducated people, and will meet us in court".

Tyalakhulu, who was instructed to exhume and move the bodies of 19 relatives, according to his affidavit, said: "He does as he pleases with our land ... he has been like a hurricane of terror and turmoil. We have never seen leadership such as this ... even the government does not treat the farmers in its land redistribution programme like we are being treated by Mandla.

"His conduct ... may well lead to bloodshed as we find it difficult to watch our lands ravaged by Mandla.

"He has divided the village and turned the villagers against one another."

On Thursday, Diniso, in an interview with the Sunday Times, accused Mandla of "trampling" on Madiba's legacy.

In his affidavit he said: "I have lived in Mvezo all my life and have never seen anything of this kind."

Fothi said Mandla had already instructed workers to exhume the bodies of his 14 relatives.

The court papers also describe how, between September 17 and September 26, villagers attempted to negotiate with Mandla for their land.

In their affidavits, Tyalakhulu, Diniso and Fothi say: "We do not want to take the law into our own hands ... [but] we have not run out of ideas on how to stop Mandla from this conduct."