Madiba fury over trust

2013-05-17 00:00

FORMER president Nelson Mandela’s fury at his own family’s alleged plotting to control his wealth is revealed in court papers filed by his lawyer and confidantes yesterday.

The affidavits by human rights lawyer George Bizos and Mandela’s lawyer, Bally Chuene, are part of an unfolding battle in the high court in Johannesburg over control of companies owned by the Mandela Trust.

They are in reply to a lawsuit brought by Mandela’s two eldest daughters, half-sisters Makaziwe Mandela and Zenani Dlamini.

The pair — represented by Nelson Mandela’s former attorney, Ismael Ayob — are trying to have Bizos and Chuene, along with Human Settlements Minister Tokyo Sexwale and Eastern Cape judge Temba Sangoni, removed as directors of two companies that made millions from the sale of handprints and other artwork by Mandela prior to 2005.

Chuene said in his affidavit that tensions exploded last year after Mandela’s daughters asked him to distribute R12 million in the companies’ bank accounts to Mandela family members. The companies are owned by the Mandela Trust.

Chuene said the request came after Zenani Dlamini, South Africa’s ambassador to Argentina, had asked for a family meeting to discuss the “financial constraints that she and other members of Mandela’s family were experiencing”.

While Chuene said he was not opposed to the pay-out, Bizos resisted it, arguing it was contrary to the deed of the trust that owned the two companies. The trust was intended “for the support and education of the beneficiaries, which would include generations to come”.

Chuene and Bizos made another bombshell claim, alleging that months after Nelson Mandela had fired Ayob in 2005, the lawyer had secretly — and unlawfully — assisted the two Mandela daughters to amend the trust deed, giving them control.

Chuene and Bizos only found out about that last year.

Also in 2005, the pair claimed, Ayob had also secretly assisted the two daughters to become trustees of the Mandela Trust.

When Nelson Mandela discovered what had happened “he was shocked and used a common expression, ‘Good Lord’,” said Chuene.

“He was most infuriated and wanted to know when this had happened. He assured me that no such decision or approval had been given by him.”

Chuene said the amendment to the trust was void as it contradicted the original trust deed, and when he told this to Makaziwe, “she became upset and claimed that this would now make it difficult for the family to obtain any money from the Mandela Trust”.

Shortly afterwards there was an exchange of correspondence that culminated in a lawsuit being launched to remove Chuene and others.

Chuene said the sisters had “acknowledged our appointments without demurral or objection until the plan to effect a general distribution [of the funds in the Mandela Trust] was halted”.

Bizos said in his affidavit that the lump sum requested by the sisters in 2011 amounted to “almost the entire capital of the Mandela Trust”.

He said another family trust, the Nelson Mandela Trust, had frequently disbursed funds to Mandela family members and had not in his recollection ever refused a request.

At a family meeting in 2005, Mandela’s wife, Graca Machel, had suggested that the two daughters remain on the Mandela Trust, and that four independent trustees be appointed, leaving them in the minority, the papers say.

At a subsequent meeting at Mandela’s Houghton home, on June 11, 2006, Chuene said, “Mr Mandela was furious that [Makaziwe Mandela and Zenani Dlamini] had allowed themselves to be used by Mr Ayob and had continued to associate themselves with him, knowing full well that he had terminated his relationship with Mr Ayob”.

“He was moreover upset that they continued to be involved in his personal affairs, despite his clear instructions to them at the previous meeting held in April 2005,” said Chuene.

Chuene claimed Ayob rebuffed his efforts to implement Nelson Mandela’s instructions after Ayob was fired. Instead, Ayob accused Chuene of fraud for appointing new directors to the disputed companies. Chuene also disclosed that tensions had been so bad at one stage that “a number of high-ranking individuals”, including then president Thabo Mbeki, had intervened to try and mediate between Nelson Mandela and Ayob.

Chuene also asked that Ayob pay all costs of the suit, citing his “lack of independence and identification with the cause” of the Mandela daughters.

Ayob said he was studying the papers and declined to comment.

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