Tensions flare at Mandela family meeting

2014-12-14 15:00

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A Mandela family meeting in Qunu, Eastern Cape, last weekend degenerated into shouting, accusations and a near fistfight, four sources have told City Press.

Two of the sources attended the meeting, which was held as the family marked one year since Nelson Mandela’s death.

But things were so tense, two separate ceremonies of izila (the ending of the mourning period) were held: one, on Friday, saw Mandela’s younger grandson Ndaba preside over the slaughtering of a cow; and the second, on Sunday, saw Ndaba’s older brother Mandla do the same thing.

According to a source who was at the meeting on Saturday, some Mandelas demanded to know why one of Mandla’s allies, Daludumo Mtirara, was speaking about family matters.

“The meeting was very heated. People wanted to know who had appointed this Daludumo, who always speaks on family matters,” the source said.

“Things got so tense that Mandla had to intervene and come to Daludumo’s defence. It almost become physical.”

The source declined to say who had nearly come to blows.

“People were very upset that he went to the media calling Mama Winnie [Madikizela-Mandela] greedy because of her claim of the Qunu property.

“The family felt this was an internal matter and no one had given Daludumo a mandate to speak on the family’s behalf.”

Madikizela-Mandela, Mandela’s ex-wife, this week told reporters she didn’t know why the late statesman had left his Qunu home to his widow Graça Machel.

She added that Machel “owns a whole world” in her native Mozambique, and that the Qunu home was rightfully hers.

A second source who attended the meeting on Saturday said Machel wasn’t present as “she always feels left out because some members of the family deliberately speak in isiXhosa so she does not understand and needs interpretation”.

A third source, who wasn’t at the meeting, said Mandela’s eldest daughter, Makaziwe, wasn’t there because the traditional ceremonies clashed with her Christian beliefs.

The power struggle between Ndaba and Mandla seems to be at the heart of the latest flare-ups.

The pair have publicly called each other illegitimate, and each claims to be Mandela’s rightful heir.

Mandla could not be reached for comment this week, but Ndaba – while refusing to discuss family tensions – confirmed that Mtirara was not allowed to speak on behalf of the Mandelas.

“It is on record that we did ask who had appointed [Mtirara] as spokesperson of the family. He was not even there when tatomkhulu [grandfather] was still alive, he just come out of nowhere. We told him he was not appointed by the family but by Mandla,” Ndaba said.

“Mandla told the meeting that Daludumo was not the spokesperson and that we should not believe what is said in the media; so, for the record, the Mandela family has not appointed Daludumo to speak on our behalf.”

Mtirara could not be reached for comment.

Ndaba became annoyed when asked about clashes in the notoriously fractious family.

“I don’t know why our family issues are of such public interest. All families discuss their issues and people often have differences.

“Why is our family treated differently?

“Let us engage in our issues as a family and iron them out. Where there is a need to go public about them, we will come to you and inform you as a family.”

Nkosi Mfundo Mtirara, a senior abaThembu leader who is close to the Mandelas, confirmed the meeting, saying he was there but preferred not to discuss details.

“Yes, I was part of the meeting with many members of the family, but I cannot discuss family matters with the media. It is wrong for people to talk about these things in the media – the family needs time and space to deal with their issues,” Mfundo said.

“All that I can say is that tata Mandela united not only members of the ANC and South Africans, but intervened in many family disputes, seeking unity. I am calling on the ANC and its government to come closer to the family and try to unite it.”

A source told City Press that a family meeting to discuss “pertinent and urgent matters” has been scheduled for next month.

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