Mandla keeps traditions on track

2013-06-09 14:00

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Mandela’s grandson speaks candidly to City Press about his chieftaincy and polygamy

When Nkosi Mandla Zwelivelile Mandela was asked to give up his life in Joburg and move to the Eastern Cape to become chief of the Mvezo Traditional Council, he didn’t want to go.

But it was his grandfather, Nelson Mandela, who was making the request.

“Once my grandfather humbles himself to any individual, he will always win his case. He won me over and I packed up everything, and I went home as per his wishes,” Mandla says.

Mandela had always wanted the chieftaincy of his late father, Mphakanyiswa, who was deposed in 1926, restored to the Madiba clan.

“In April 2007, when I was officially installed, my grandfather was overwhelmed. He said: ‘Today, I will go to my resting place a very happy person because my father’s chieftaincy has been restored.’ I was very happy to have fulfilled one of his wishes.”

During an interview at his Mvezo Great Place home, the 38-year-old chief says one of his greatest fears is disappointing his grandfather. That’s why he’s distanced himself from a nasty public battle that’s pitted two of his aunts against the trustees tasked with managing Mandela’s estate.

“We should be preserving his dignity as a family and not be part of stripping it away from him,” he said, adding he did not want to dwell on those issues.

“I took an immediate stance to disassociate myself with the position that our very own family members (his aunts Makaziwe and Zenani) have taken. They are people I love and admire. I never had a meeting with any of my aunts on the subject.

“For me it was a shocking experience to see that my own family had taken such a position. I will never, while my grandfather lives, or after his passing, be part of the squabbling over his own assets and his own legacy.”

His detractors would point out that while Mandla is not involved in the current battles, he’s no stranger to negative headlines – especially in his love life. He insists that his polygamist views are neither controversial nor shameful.

South Africans, he says, are judgemental and intolerant of each other’s traditions.

“The only wish that I have is that we continue to uphold the traditions and customs of AbaThembu people. We are a nation that by tradition are a polygamist-structured family.”

His first marriage, to Tando Mabunu-Mandela, was “lovely”. But its ending wasn’t quite so lovely. His second marriage didn’t end well either.

According to Mandla, Anais Grimaud went home to Reunion to “engage her family regarding certain challenges we have emanating from herself”.

Grimaud left Mvezo last year amid allegations that her son was fathered by one of Mandla’s younger brothers.

Mandla doesn’t want to talk much about this, saying the matter is being dealt with by their families.

Another topic about which he’s a little cagy is his latest alleged relationship with Kenyan beauty queen Natasha Metto. It’s been reported that lobola has already been paid.

“We never seek to hide anything. In due course, what had been speculated, we will speak to and address it. Tando Mabunu might have been my first wife, but not the last I will ever have,” he says.

But it’s not all drama. He says he is happily married to his third wife, Nodiyala Mbali-Mandela.

Mandla’s life is now in Mvezo and Cape Town, which he visits in his role as an ANC MP. But he keeps a close eye on what’s happening in Houghton, Joburg, where his ailing grandfather lives.

The former president was early yesterday morning re-admitted to a Pretoria hospital, where his condiction was described as serious but stable.

Mandla’s aunts recently criticised the ANC after pictures of Mandela with a visiting delegation of ANC leaders was published. But Mandla saw no problem with the visit.

Although Mandla was a reluctant arrival in Mvezo all those years ago, it now appears to be the place where he’s happiest.

He’s involved in building a school, a new bridge, a clinic, a sanitation project and a backpackers’ lodge.

He spends his days resolving disputes, chairing family meetings or playing with his dog, a Great Dane named Layla.

He and his subjects are also preparing for Mandela’s 95th birthday on July 18.

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