Last December, Madiba’s ex-wife Winnie Madikizela-Mandela and his last wife, Graca Machel, were seen comforting each other in the wake of the statesman’s death.
The warmth has cooled, if not frozen over, as Winnie opens a court fight for the estate of the former president, the validity of the will, and the legitimacy of the handover to Mrs. Machel of the rural house.
“I let him live on my property. I wasn’t going to evict him simply because he was married to a third wife,” she said in a combative tone that surprised many. “It is such a pity he is no longer there for me to ask what on earth would have brought him to elect that he would take my land and give it away to someone who actually has a whole world in Mozambique because [Machel has] her four houses in Mozambique.”
According to the will. Mandela’s homes in Qunu and Houghton, Johannesburg, would be held in the Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela Family Trust and the Nelson Mandela Trust.
Madikizela-Mandela, however, disputes that, asserting that Mandela may have committed land fraud when he registered a plot of land in Qunu, Eastern Cape, in his own name.
According to the longtime ANC activist, abaThembu King Buyelekhaya Dalindyebo gave her the land when Mandela was imprisoned and that it was rightfully hers. She contends the registration of the house in Mandela’s name was unlawful and should be set aside.
President Jacob Zuma has filed a notice to oppose the ex-wife’s reported application to access government documents relating to the Qunu property.
The property claim began over the summer when a letter by Madikizela-Mandela’s lawyers sought to repossess the house for Winnie’s children. “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/or her grandchildren,” the lawyers stated.
Traditional leaders also have the power to allocate parcels of land to people, but they do not become the official owner. Therefore, the issue may have to be decided under traditional customary law, said Professor Stephen Tuson from Wits University in Johannesburg.
“My first crisp question would be what was Nelson Mandela’s title to that home – if anything? That would be definitive in my view,” said Tuson. “If he had the title deeds then he can do with his home what he wishes. If he was not the title holder, if it was not his, but allocated to him, well then there is a little more wiggle room here. Then we would have to look at undocumented, largely, customary law and here the lines can get very blurred.”w/pix of W. Madikizela-Mandela