Family troubles up for discussion as Mandela family meets for ritual

2013-12-22 10:00

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Senior members of late president Nelson Mandela’s family will converge on his Qunu home today to conduct an important traditional ritual.

The ceremony, called ukuhlamba iipeki, or the washing of the spades, is conducted a week after the funeral and is intended to cleanse the tools of the darkness of death.

It also follows an escalation of hostilities among family members. When Madiba’s daughter Makaziwe changed the locks to grandson Mandla’s house, and cut off his water and lights just before the funeral, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela issued a statement in which she admonished the media for reporting on family troubles.

She also endorsed Makaziwe as umafungwashe and the head of the family, while Mandla would be “respected as one of Nelson Mandela’s grandchildren”.

Mfundo Mtirara, abaThembu royal spokesperson, said the family troubles were likely to come up for discussion today.

“As the elders we have not been called in to intervene yet. But with all these insinuations of infighting, we don’t even have to be called to intervene,” he said. “Right now, we are not sure what is going on, so we will see how it goes tomorrow,” he said yesterday.

On Friday, Madikizela-Mandela was strongly rebuked by the abaThembu royal family for her statement. The royal family said she had no business discussing succession matters in the media.

Royal family spokesperson Daludumo Mtirara said: “The royal family of the kingdom of abaThembu feels embarrassed by Mrs Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, the former wife of late statesman Nkosi Dalibhunga Nelson Mandela, who mischievously discussed in the media matters that affect the customs of the abaThembu kingdom and its nation.

“In our history, we have never experienced such embarrassment, where the former wife or wife in service misleads the public through misinformation or ignorance to advance personal interests at the expense of our custom.”

Daludumo Mtirara said in 2007 when Mandla was installed as chief of Mvezo, Mandela made it clear to them and other royal houses that Mandla was his successor.

“The royal family ... recognises Nkosi Zwelivelile Mandla Mandela as the head of the Mandela house,” Mtirara said, adding that Mandela’s daughters Makaziwe, Zenani and Zindzi, and other “ordinary family members” were expected to advise him “when required to do so”.

“The royal family is aware that during the preparation for the funeral of the world icon, his aunts made critical decisions without the consent of Mandla,” he said.

Now the royal family intends calling a meeting soon with royal family houses, including the Mandelas, Mtiraras and Mnqanqenis, to remind everybody that Mandla was the head of the family, and to discuss “Mrs Winnie Madikizela-Mandela’s mischievous statement”.

Mandla, who unveiled an 11m sculpture at the new Nelson Mandela School of Science and Technology in Mvezo this week, has chosen to remove himself from the feud.

His lawyer and royal adviser, Matthew Mpahlwa, said: “Our view is that we are not interested in the family infighting. We are focusing on building and preserving the legacy of the former state president.”

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