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.
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.
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.
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. — firstname.lastname@example.org