Confusion in Mandla Mandela bigamy case
Thando Mgaga and Thobani Ngqulunga, The Witness
Pietermaritzburg - ANC MP Mandla Mandela's lawyer has given prosecutors the assurance that his client will appear in court next month in connection with alleged bigamy and that there is no need to arrest him.
Bertus Preller, who is handling Mandela’s divorce, told The Witness he confirmed this with the prosecutor over the weekend.
It was agreed Mandela “will appear at a time convenient for the State”. The matter would then be postponed for further investigation, Preller said.
It is understood that Mandela is likely to appear in a fortnight’s time in the Bityi Periodical Court.
However, it appears that the police in Bityi, who are investigating a charge of bigamy against Mandela laid by his estranged wife, Thando Mabuna-Mandela, are of a different opinion. It is a common law crime and it is not clear whether anyone has been successfully convicted of bigamy in modern-day South Africa.
Eastern Cape police spokesperson Mzukisi Fatyela insisted that prosecutors had spoken to Mandela’s lawyer on Saturday and that there was agreement the MP would appear in court on Monday.
“The [Mandela] lawyer said that he will avail himself to appear in court and we trust them that they will communicate with him to appear,” said Fatyela.
He could not confirm who the lawyer was and whether it was someone other than Preller, who was not aware of any agreement about his client appearing on Monday.
Fatyela was emphatic that police would “do everything in our power to ensure that he avails himself to appear in court”.
There was confusion at the weekend as to whether a legal warrant of arrest did in fact exist.
The Witness has in its possession a copy of a two-page memo from the office of the station commander of Bityi police station dated February 17, as well as a warrant of arrest.
It is addressed to the station commander, Goodwood police station, in Cape Town, as well as the cluster commander for the SA Police Service in Mthatha.
The signature on the copy of the warrant of arrest for Mandela on a charge of bigamy is illegible and it is not immediately clear whether the warrant is in fact a legal one.
Colonel Andre Traut, a spokesperson for the Western Cape police, was unable to confirm that the Goodwood police had received an arrest warrant.
“All efforts have been made to solicit [Mandela’s] co-operation in the investigation of this case, but in vain and it has become crystal clear that this person is evading justice.
"This office has gathered enough evidence on this case and a prima facie case exists with a strong prospect of a successful prosecution.”
It urges the Goodwood police to execute the warrant “immediately upon sight of this person and advise this office of such an arrest without delay” and gives his address in the parliamentary village in Cape Town.
“Your co-operation in this matter will be highly appreciated as this case has long been outstanding.”
The attached warrant of arrest refers to a charge of bigamy committed in March 2010 - the month Mandela tied the knot in a customary union to Anais Grimaud, a 19-year-old woman from Reunion. The couple have a child. It makes no reference to a customary union in December last year to Pietermaritzburg woman Mbali Makhathini.
The warrant describes Mandela as “light in completion [sic], slender in size. Tall in height”.
In his reaction, the Eastern Cape National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) spokesperson, Luxolo Tyali, said the NPA had no knowledge of a warrant of arrest.
He declined to comment further, saying it was a police matter. Meanwhile, the prosecutor in the case did not reply to messages left on her phone by The Witness.
His side of the story
Mandela’s colleague and confidant, Mfundo Mtirara, defended his friend, saying there was no need for him to appear in court.
“His wife filed a statement with the police against Mandla, so police were yet to hear Mandla’s side of the story because he was supposed to have seen them on Saturday to make his statement.
“However if he has not been there to see the police then I will go with him tomorrow.”
Mtirara said Mandela had co-operated with police and there was no need for his arrest.
Meanwhile, ANC Eastern Cape spokesperson Mlibo Qhoboshiyane said a meeting about Mandela between the party’s leadership and the Madiba clan had yet to take place.
The provincial secretary was still negotiating with Mandela about a suitable time.
Qhoboshianye was quoted last year as saying the ANC wanted the Madiba clan to rein Mandela in, after several allegations against him, including alleged kidnapping, claims by three Mvezo villagers that he was stealing their land for development, as well as the bigamy charges.
On the latest developments: Qhoboshiyane said, “We are not clear exactly what is taking place, but we will comment after the matter has been considered in courts as we do not have facts of the situation.”
Mabuna-Mandela married Mandela in community of property in 2004, but the couple have been going through a messy divorce since 2008.
She managed to annul his customary union to Grimaud, and last year won a court order against Mandela and Makhathini to stop them from tying the knot. The couple went ahead with the traditional ceremony in Mvezo in December. The sheriff of the court has allegedly refused to serve the annulment notice on the couple.
The Customary Marriages Act of 1998 forbids a spouse entering into more than one legal union while still married.
It also stops couples entering into civil and customary marriages simultaneously.