Who’s in charge of clan Mandela? Traditional leaders weigh in

2013-12-19 13:06

Traditional leaders are divided when it comes to identifying who, according to custom, should be described as the head of the Mandela family in the wake of Nelson Mandela’s death.

A heated succession debate has erupted after Mandela’s ex-wife, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, issued a statement describing the statesman’s eldest daughter, Makaziwe, as head of the family.

Madikizela-Mandela said in her statement that Mandela’s eldest grandson, Mandla, only represented “the next generation” of the Mandela family.

Her statement came after reports earlier this week that Mandla had been sidelined and the locks changed at his Qunu home in the days leading up to Mandela’s state funeral – allegedly on Makaziwe’s instructions.

But traditional leaders say the debate is not that simple.

Nkosi Bhovulengwe Mtirara, Madiba’s clan nephew and senior traditional leader of the abaThembu nation, to which the Mandelas belong, said Mandla was the head of the family.

“Traditionally, Mandla is now the head of the family. That’s the person everyone should be looking to, but the family can appoint Makaziwe as head of the estate, that is something totally different. But Mandla, according to our tradition, is head of the family no one else,” Mtirara said.

Another traditional leader of the abaThembu nation, Nkosi Patekile Holomisa, who is also the president of the Congress of Traditional Leaders, said: “I have never heard [of] umafungwashe [the eldest daughter] being head of the family, but maybe the Mandelas have their way of doing things.

“In the amaGebe tribe where I am the head, a male person is always the head of the family. I don’t know how they do it at the Mandela family. The role of umafungwashe as I know it is that of a unifier and adviser and not the head,” Holomisa said.

But he added that, according to the Constitution, royal families are allowed to change these traditions and practices.

The leader of the Icamagu Institute, Dr Nokuzola Mndende, said who the head of the family is dependent on who between Mandla and his brother, Ndaba, was born in a marriage or whose mother between the two sons was according to customary law married to their late father Makgatho.

“The Mandela family matter is a bit tricky but according to traditions the first-born son in a marriage is the head and heir of family. If both sons [Mandla and Ndaba] are born out of wedlock, then the son whose mother was eventually married to their father is the head and heir,” Mndende said.

Read: Mandla Mandela: 10 startling claims

Nkosi Ngangomhlaba Matanzima, an elder and traditional leader in the Madiba family, said the matter was very sensitive and refused to comment.

“I don’t want to comment on this. Our view is that Madiba has just passed away and we would like the Mandela family matters to be contained,” he said.

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