Mandela family show a united front

2013-12-14 00:00

THE bitter rifts in the Mandela family appeared to be set aside yesterday, as family members insisted that Madiba’s death had not only united South Africans, but the clan itself.

In the latest spat, direct family members fought in court in June this year, after Mandla Mandela (39), eldest grandson and self-proclaimed head of the family, had exhumed and relocated three of Mandela’s children from Qunu to Mandela’s birthplace of Mvezo. Mandela’s eldest daughter, Makaziwe, accused her nephew of blind-siding the family with “self-serving interests”, and won a ruling to have the remains returned.

She has since demanded Mandla remove his pigs from Mandela’s Qunu smallholding, and — just two weeks ago — wrote to demand he remove his four bulldogs as well.

Last week, abaThembu King Buyelekhaya Dalindyebo reportedly told family members at their Houghton home that they should use the occasion of the loss of Mandela to heal rifts, and that they “must respect each other and support each other”.

However, family spokesperson Bantu Holomisa told Weekend Witness that the loving scenes witnessed this week — including siblings embracing, and Graça Machel and Winnie Madikizela-Mandela grieving together — were a sincere reflection of “unity” in the family.

“You can see it for yourself,” said Holomisa. “There have been no funny comments from anybody; the family is relaxed. I did not hear any funny groaning.”

He said family members had all thrown their weight and total co-operation behind the mourning period plan, and that three family groups had flown to Qunu to mourn “harmoniously” together this weekend.

However, one person close to the clan, who asked not to be named, said any warming of relations would likely be temporary, and that the battles could escalate as squabbles over his legacy and estate commenced.

Mandla owns a cultural centre and a hostel at Mvezo, and — with the addition of a newly tarred road — hopes to use them as the hub of a new local job-creating tourism venture. The decision to bury Mandela at Qunu — in accordance with a simple will he wrote in 1996 — is understood to represent a major blow to his grandson’s plans.

At Mvezo yesterday, a spokesperson for the abaThembu royal family said: “The family is more than united. There are no problems among family members.”

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