Will R25m split Mandelas?

2013-04-14 14:00

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Court application to have trustees of Mandela Trust ­removed has Ayob’s name ‘written all over it’

About R25 million is at the centre of the latest feud threatening to rip apart the family of former president ­Nelson Mandela.

City Press can reveal that the Mandela Trust, the sole shareholder in the two companies at the centre of the latest Mandela money fallout, is worth about R25 million.

Harmonieux Investment Holdings and Magnifique Investment Holdings – the companies – were established by Mandela’s former friend and personal attorney, ­Ismail Ayob, to manage royalties from the sale of Mandela’s ­artworks.

The scheme was stopped after it was revealed Ayob and his business partner, Ross Calder, had bought a signature machine to sign Madiba’s name on his handprints.

Two independent sources with knowledge of the Mandelas’ financial affairs told City Press the latest court application to have the ­trustees of the Mandela Trust ­removed had Ayob’s name “written all over it”.

The application was brought by Mandela’s daughters, Makaziwe Mandela and Zenani Dlamini, and is also supported by a few ­grandchildren.

Trustees of the Mandela Trust include human rights lawyer George Bizos, Human Settlements Minister Tokyo Sexwale and ­attorney Bally Chuene, whose ­appointment the daughters now say was irregular.

The sources agree that Ayob, who brought the application on ­behalf of Makaziwe and Zenani, was behind the move to have the trustees removed so that he and the daughters could benefit from the R25 million, and also continue marketing Mandela’s artworks.

Said one source: “Clearly, there are lots of divisions within the ­family. And I can tell you this has Ayob’s name written all over it. ­Ayob still wants to go and market Mandela’s art, and he is promising the women (Zenani and Makaziwe) a lot of returns.

“What will happen is that these women want to take control of the companies and let Ayob continue marketing the art. They will ­remain the two shareholders of the companies and make money. ­Remember, the art is worth quite a lot of money.”

Ayob did not respond to ­numerous requests for comment.

Another source said: “There was R25 million in (the companies). But now Ayob has convinced some Mandela children to go with him to get their hands on this money.

“That’s what this fight is about, to lay their hands on the R25 million odd.”

One of the Mandela Trust’s ­activities was to market Mandela’s artworks, which he would have personally signed.

Bizos and his fellow trustees ­obtained an interim court order to stop the printing and distribution of Mandela’s artworks after the ­existence of the signature machine came to light.

Bizos, according to one source, didn’t push for a final court order because he felt he had “done enough to stop the business”.

The source said the fight over the R25 million marked the beginning of many legal battles, to be fought over many months and years, when Mandela passes on.

“It is very unfortunate that Mandela has to hear about these divisions in the state he is in. Clearly, he is in the final stages of life, and the last thing he wants to hear is that his family is divided over his inheritance and name.

“Families fight all the time, but I’ve never heard of families fighting over the inheritance of somebody who is still alive. Can they not at least allow the old man to depart in peace?”

Another source said: “He (Ayob) is torn up with bitterness. He’s got this room in his office, a shrine with Mandela memorabilia. He is a bitter, bitter man. He thinks it was Bizos who convinced Mandela to fire him in 2004.”

In 2005, Ayob was accused of paying up to R700 000 of the Nelson Mandela Trust (NMT) – a different trust – to children and grandchildren.

The feud ended up in a drawn-out high court battle, which ended with Ayob having to repay R790 000 to the NMT in June 2007.

It is estimated the NMT is more than R20 million strong.

Bizos said he could not comment as the matter was already before the courts.

“What I can tell you is we will ­defend the proceedings in order not only to protect Madiba’s name and legacy, but also ourselves as the trustees. If you want to know exactly what is happening, you can go to court and read the papers, and draw your own inferences and conclusions,” said Bizos.

Bizos and his fellow trustees have asked law firm Norton Rose to defend the case.

» Mandela’s grandson Mandla Mandela told City Press he was disappointed and hurt by what ­Ayob and his aunts were doing, ­reports Lubabalo Ngcukana.

“My aunts never called me to a meeting to discuss this issue ­before taking their actions...­ (Ayob) is not in charge of Madiba’s affairs and has no business dragging my name into this,” said an ­upset Mandla.

“I cannot believe what is happening while he (Madiba) is still alive, that us, his children, would be hanging out his linen like this and discussing private family matters in public.”

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