EXCLUSIVE: Winnie claims Mandela Qunu home

NELSON Mandela’s ex-wife Winnie Madikizela-Mandela has made an audacious claim against the icon’s will – and is demanding the rights to Madiba’s Qunu home.

The challenge by Madikizela-Mandela, contained in a letter to the executors of Madiba’s estate, is likely to spark fresh upheaval in the former president’s deeply divided family.

South Africa, Mandela
TANGLE: Top, the Qunu homestead, which is now a topic of dispute as the divorced wife of the late former president Nelson Mandela, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, is claiming it under customary law.

Click here to read Mandela’s last will and testament: 


In his will Mandela wrote: “The Qunu property should be used by my family in perpetuity in order to preserve the unity of the Mandela family.”

The Daily Dispatch was given exclusive sight of the letter addressed to deputy judge president Dikgang Moseneke two weeks ago. Moseneke is one of the estate’s co-executors.

Dated July 18 – Madiba’s birthday – and written by Madikizela-Mandela’s Mthatha-based lawyers, it states that the property in Qunu was first obtained while the two were still married and that according to AbaThembu custom, the house belongs to Madikizela-Mandela and her descendants.

Lawyer Mvuyo Notyesi wrote that the children born out of Mandela’s three marriages were entitled to the common homes that each of the wives is entitled to.

“This position becomes applicable irrespective of whether the wife was divorced or not,” Notyesi wrote in the letter.

The claim includes the Qunu farm, which the couple owned while they were married.

Notyesi could not be reached yesterday as calls to his phone went unanswered.

Madikizela-Mandela’s spokesman Thato Mmereki had not responded to Dispatch questions at the time of going to print.

Earlier this year when the much anticipated will was read, Madikizela-Mandela received nothing from her former husband.

Her two daughters – Zenani Mandela Dlamini and Zindzi – each received R3-million prior to the reading of the will.

Winnie’s two daughters with Mandela, Zindzi Mandela and Zenani Mandela. Right, deputy judge president and estate co-executor Dikgang Moseneke.
Winnie’s two daughters with Mandela, Zindzi Mandela and Zenani Mandela.

All their children received R100 000 each.

Madiba’s third wife, Graça Machel, was the only person who could rightfully contest the will. She had 90 days to waive her rights to the estate. It appears the executors may have anticipated problems when the will was made public.

They stated: “The executors and administrators will not be involved in issues of customary law, particularly insofar as concerns matters of status within the family.”

Following Madiba’s death and in the run-up to his funeral on December 15 last year, the Qunu homestead was reportedly the scene of intense family jostling over the Mandela legacy.

Just last week provincial officials visited the farm to tend to Madiba’s starving herd.

The Qunu house was built by the former Transkei government and renovated by the current democratic government to accommodate Mandela’s deteriorating health.

“In fact, the property in question was obtained by Mrs Madikizela-Mandela whilst the husband was in prison.

“The view we hold is that the aforesaid property belongs to the generation of Mr Nelson Mandela and Mrs Winnie Madikizela-Mandela as their common and parental home,” wrote Notyesi.

“It is only in this home that the children and grandchildren of Mrs Madikizela-Mandela can conduct their own customs and tradition and the house cannot be given to the sole custody of an individual, nor can it be generally given to the custody of any person other than the children of Mrs Madikizela-Mandela and her grandchildren.”

Madikizela-Mandela’s two children, Zenani and Zindzi, and their offspring, stand to benefit.

Deputy judge president and estate co-executor Dikgang Moseneke.
Deputy judge president and estate co-executor Dikgang Moseneke.

Notyesi wrote that the property had been acquired in 1989 while Mandela was still in prison and he had personally approved it when he was released.

“Customarily, the property and the house became the house of Mrs Madikizela-Mandela as the second wife of the late Mr Nelson Mandela.”

The letter stated that supporting affidavits would be filed by Madikizela-Mandela’s lawyers from AbaThembu family elders, King Buyelekhaya Dalindyebo and some from the family.

“We wish to record that this is by no means an attack on the will of the late Mr Nelson Mandela and we confirm that none of our clients is contesting the will, but our clients are only asserting the traditional and customary rights on what may be contentious in the future,” concluded the letter.

The Dispatch can also confirm that Moseneke acknowledged the letter from Notyesi and said the claim against the estate would be discussed at an executors’ meeting on Thursday.

The property being disputed is currently being administered by the Nelson Rholihlahla Mandela Family Trust on behalf of the Mandela family and Machel and her two children.

Dalindyebo could not be reached for comment. No response had been received to questions sent to Moseneke at the time of going to print. — abongilem@dispatch.co.za


  1. Family affairs aningeni ndawo, why all the hate. Just grow up she is definately not a nobody, she is a mother to her children and gogo to her grandchildren also a strugle stalwart to some….

  2. What a horrible evil woman. No wonder Mandela left her out his will. She is the opposite of Mandela. So sad his great named is being dragged through the mud by this horrible woman.

  3. Madiba was supposed to build another home for Graca. I dont agree with Winnie most of the times, but on this one she is right. Thats the custom.

  4. I think you said it mouthful Lwandiso, this is also my understanding of custom. Even Mr mandela knew it very well about this custom. In my village at Ngcobo under Abathembu Kingship that practice has been happening in ages, so, there is nothing new from what is being demanded by Winnie in fact she is demanding what she belongs to her according to custom.

    • What custom, can you please send me a link? Nelson and Winnie Mandela were divorced in 1996, if she wanted his house she should have asked for it eighteen years ago. Is the custom to demand when you’re broke?

  5. I guess this are the consequences of having more than one wife. I don’t know anything about the will but I think Winnie is entitled to what she is asking for.

  6. Guys…its not what we think and some touchy -feely things that your grandmother told you at bedtime. Just know your law…there was a divorce sometime ago, a settlement was reached and that is that finish & klaar. Next you’ll be saying the ancestors have a claim.

  7. Re: Lwandiso and sparks
    What you and Winnie are saying is the bastardization of custom to suit certain interests. Winnie was not in a traditional marriage so her marriage doesn’t fall under the traditional law. As you and sparks point out, in traditional marriages, there is no divorce in the sense of going to court and claiming money by the wife and all. In this case Winnie followed the “white man’s” law and demanded money during the divorce without mentioning anything about the home. This means that she is not entitled to the home otherwise she should have raised this during her divorce proceedings. My understanding of their divorce proceedings is that the issue was never even raised by Winnie. The court would want to know why now? Perhaps, if the people making this claim were her children the court would be more lenient as they were never given a chance during the divorce proceedings.

  8. Re Abongile

    What can i tell you is that in Abathembu jurisdiction but I also believe in most of Xhosa speaking people there is no “purely white man law marriage’. Mr Mandela has paod lobola and a ritual called utsiki and ukudliswa amasi were performed during their wedding. This is symbol of traditional marriage, this does not matter whether at a later stage you can choose to go and get a marriage certificate which stipulates nature of your marriage but once these afore-said rituals are performed, which is the case then what we know as the community members and the entire nation is that so and so has got marriage and accepted by the ancestors of that family as a wife of that family clan who is entitled to certain benefits for life.

    Thus, when you decide to divorce at a later stage like the case between Mr Mandela nad Winnie, you are processing that using the ‘white man’s law” as you correctly pointed out and that has to be judged using the contents of your marriage agreed upon in a marriage certificate be it either in community of property or otherwise. But the traditional part of marriage is still standing and is not affected by the use of a ‘white man law” divorce as Lwandiso has well said that there is nothing called divorce in our culture. Importantly, in our culture your wife does not only belong to you alone, she also belong to your family clan, that is why ke Abongile you will hera the saying ethi ” Lo ngumfazi wasemathileni” kungathiwa ‘lo ngumfazi ka Abongile, because that wife will be the wife of your family clan until she dies. That is an understanding.

    Flowing from above, Winnie is entitled to what she is requested according to the custom; further what we are saying with lwandiso its not just a something we heard about it. I think I have clearly when i said this is a practice that is still practised here in my village and surrounding villages under Abathembu Kingship, of which it happen that Mr Mandela fall under it.

  9. Like it has already been said here, Winnie has a legitimate claim. and yes, civilised blacks have had a tradition of doing both the traditional and white wedding and yes, in the traditional wedding, there is a process of divorcing your wife, however, the deceased and the claimant did not divorce in terms of customary, also this is the house they chose as a couple and Madiba violated customs by taking another wife and staying with her in a home he built with Winnie for their children. so ignorant insults which have been thrown around here will not change the facts, Winnie needs to be given her home, there is no debate there.

    • Lets wait for the courts then..I maintain the law trumps custom law. We all fought for, as part of our liberation for a modern equitable law.
      Fancy placing a bet on the outcome?

  10. @Sparks, What you raising is persuasive as far as them following custom and all. I must again point out that Winnie & Mandela chose to register their marriage not as a customary marriage. You can’t have it both ways, for example, it is not against the law to marry as many wives as possible in a customary marriage. Perhaps, had they registered their marriage as traditional Mandela would have married a second and even 3rd wife. The issue here is that you can’t have it both ways. If you want to be judged through customary law then you must not double dip by looking for the best of both worlds. You are trying to argue that this is common practice or common law but in my experience as a Tembu, if someone divorces using the “white man’s law” they are only entitled to what they get in court. It’s just that “white man’s divorces” are rare in our communities. In the two cases that I’ve seen it in my village the homes were left to the children that came out of that union not the divorced wife. Hence I say I would understand if this were Zindzi and Zenani.

  11. this woman is not thinking about other Mandela’s children and grandkids , she’s only thinking about her and her kids she’s selfish

  12. This man came out of prison and had a salary as a president.
    Where do all these millions he was spraying allover SADAC from his will come from?
    We need a thorough audit and have all ilgotten gains back into state coffers.
    He bequeathed a curse to his family .
    Money which was meant to benefit the poor.
    Hence they will never find peace

    • Had a double take to make sure you that you were not that thoroughly questionable grandson who was shunting bones around to up his potential income. Same Christian er Xhosa first name.

    • @Mandla Dlamini, Actually what Mandela is worth is far less than I expected. His book alone “Long Walk to Freedom” has alread sold millions and millions of copies. There are also the Mandela artworks, shirts, movie based on his autobiography etc. He got those millions from winning the Nobel Peace Prize. Didn’t he charge for making speeches all over the place like some former presidents do in Europe? I still don’t understand why he is only worth 45 million rands.

  13. @Abongile
    What u failed to understand is the fact that it is exactly what u said it cant happen. Most of Xhosa speaking people they had both marriages bcz by yhe fact that lobola is paid and all the ritual processes r performed such as ukwendiswa kwenziwe iduli and ukudliswa kwa masi, that means a customary marriage has been conducted and registered in both ancestoral families. Then u can choose to register now in what u called as white man, but it doesnt superseed the customary marriage. In fact according to Xhosa practice there is mo man who owns a homestead alone, it belongs to both of them, hence u have izidlu, houses that r named using the status of wives such as great house, right hand house up to ixhiba,the fifth wife. Moreover, I agree with the notion which says that Mr Mandela should have built another house for the new wife. That house in Qunu belongs to Winnie and her children with Mandela.

  14. Guys, my understanding is that the Mandela homestead in Qunu is build in the tribal land, therefore custom here superseed. Again Machel should not have agreed to stay in that house that was build for another woman, she should requested her new home for her memories with Madiba. Winnie also should not want the house only for herself and her kids and grandkids but all Madiba’s children from Evelen and their grandkids. Let the home be Mandelas and not for one person, but at the same time one person should be responsible for the running of the home.

  15. The house belongs to Winnie and her two children not to all the Mandelas,we can change the customary law for Mandela. I was born from the first marriage actually we are five childeren and my father got married again and 2nd wife knew very well that she and her kids had no claim in our home though she used to go there when my father was still alive as a result the last time she was there was my fathers funeral in 1999 because she knows its not her home. My grandmother used to us that while we were still younng and the woman was made aware. Ayixoxisi lento and Tata Nelson should have built a complex for his his lovely Graca bcoz he had money anyway Mandela knew it very well and I think its high time that this Gcaca should go to Mozambique where he belongs because the person he came to is no more. Thank you

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