‘Mandela lawyer sold my house’

2013-06-09 14:00

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Es’kia Mphahlele’s son could find himself without a home if Liberty Life gets its way

President Nelson Mandela’s lawyer Bally Chuene and the former vice-chancellor of the University of Venda are at the centre of a court battle, which could see the family of famed author Dr Es’kia Mphahlele being booted out of his house.

In January, insurance company Liberty Life obtained a court order to attach Mphahlele’s house in Limpopo and evict his son, Robert Dichaba Mphahlele, his wife and two children.

Robert informed City Press on Thursday that his father sold the house in Lebowakgomo, just outside Polokwane, to former University of Venda vice-chancellor Professor Gessler Nkondo in 2003.

The four bedroom house was sold for R200 000. And Mphahlele – a Nobel Prize for Literature nominee, who in 1998 was awarded the nation’s highest honour, the Order of the Southern Cross, by former president Mandela – then moved to Joburg.

Four years later, he sold his Joburg house and returned to Lebowakgomo after buying his house back from Nkondo for R220 000.

Robert explained that his father asked Chuene, who had power of attorney over his affairs, to have the house transferred back into his name.

But disaster struck when Mphahlele suffered a stroke. He drafted a will in which he asked that the house be transferred to his son, and he died in 2008.

“The old man died before the whole transfer process could be completed and I had to oversee it,” Robert said.

He said Chuene told him he couldn’t obtain a clearance certificate from the Lepelle-Nkumpi municipality because the rates and taxes account was still in his father’s name. It was also in arrears because Nkondo had not paid his municipal bills.

“He (Nkondo) ran up an exorbitant bill in my father’s name and when we tried to get him to pay, he was just arrogant and didn’t cooperate,” he said.

Robert said the transfer of the house was then halted, and Nkondo then ran into financial trouble with Liberty Life.

The sheriff of the high court of the Lebowakgomo district attached the house in April because Nkondo owed the insurer R467 527 for an unspecified bill he couldn’t pay.

“The house was registered in his name at the deed’s office. How he got to do that without first changing the rates and taxes account at the municipality we don’t know,” he said.

Robert, an Afro-jazz musician, said he did not have the money to pay the council bill because he was unemployed.

“I had several meetings with Bally and Nkondo to sort this matter out, but nothing came of it,” he said.

Earlier this year, he received a phone call from Chuene to warn him about Liberty’s case against Nkondo and told him to find a lawyer.

“How do you inform me on the eve of a court case to find a lawyer to represent me knowing very well that I’m unemployed?

“This is not the kind of legacy my father wanted to leave behind,” he said.

Last week, Robert met Nkondo, who promised to give him a letter stating that he was the rightful owner of the property.

“But he failed to do that. We phoned him on Thursday but he sounded rude and arrogant.

“Now I can be evicted from this house any time and have nowhere to go.

“Liberty Life have all the powers to evict me because the house is still registered in his (Nkondo) name.”

Chuene did not respond to City Press’ numerous phone calls and SMS requests for comment.

When called for comment, Nkondo confirmed that Liberty Life had obtained a court order to attach the house, but said Robert would not be evicted because he was the rightful owner of the house.

“The house belongs to him, I sold it to him. I don’t understand why they attached it. I referred him to my lawyers and I think this matter will be sorted out very soon,” he said.

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