Inside battle Mandela: Mandla vs Makaziwe

2013-06-30 10:00

Makaziwe wields great influence in the family and many believe the ancestors now appear to be against Mandla.

Aunt and nephew are pitted against each other in the high-stakes battle for leadership of the fractured Mandela family.

On one side is the former president’s 38-year-old grandson Mandla Mandela, the chief of Mvezo, and on the other his formidable 59-year-old aunt Makaziwe.

That there appears to be no love lost between them was glaringly illustrated this week by the family’s appointment of Mandla’s nemesis, Wesley Hayes, as their lawyer.

Hayes – Mandla’s first wife’s attorney who has heaped shame and embarrassment on the young chief in reams of papers supporting numerous court applications throughout his bitter five-year divorce battle – represented the family in their bid to have the remains of three of former president Nelson Mandela’s children returned to Qunu.

On Friday, City Press broke the news of how the family went to battle in the Mthatha High Court to have the remains of the deceased children Thembekile, Makaziwe and Mandla’s father Makgatho exhumed from their graves in Mvezo and reinterred in Qunu. Judge Lusindiso Pakade granted their request.

Mandla had their remains moved to Mvezo in 2011 and the family demanded their return, believing that Mandela was being made to suffer by the ancestors because of the actions of his grandson.

On Tuesday night, senior Mandela family elders visited the Qunu family graveyard to plead for forgiveness from their ancestors, after an “emotional and tense” family meeting.

On one side was Makaziwe, accompanied by her close friend, Public Service and Administration Minister Lindiwe Sisulu.

On the other was an isolated Mandla – with the entire family taking him to task for moving the graves. After the meeting, Mandla did not go to the family graveyard with the others but drove off instead in the direction of Mvezo.

Makaziwe, or Maki as she is affectionately known, was described by a family friend this week as a “petulant peacock”.

She wields a lot of influence in the family and vetoes many decisions.

Close family friends, who spoke on condition of anonymity, say that as the first daughter of Mandela’s first marriage, AbaThembu culture dictates that she preside over family meetings and be the one to make announcements.

“Since she is the eldest child of Mandela, she is known as ‘umafungwashe’ (the one by whom we swear). Umafungwashe has to be consulted, even if she is married. There is no major decision they can take without her,” the insider said.

“Mandla is the heir apparent, and he does take some decisions sometimes, but it has to be the eldest daughter?.?.?.?who takes the decision.”

The Umafungwashe is likened to the British Princess Royal – a title bestowed by a British monarch upon his or her first-born daughter.

Makaziwe is believed to be supported by Ndaba, Mandla’s half-brother, who accompanied her on this week’s trip to Qunu as well as on family visits to hospital with his younger brother, Mbuso.

During hospital visits, Makaziwe has been regularly flanked by her niece Ndileka Mandela, the daughter of her late brother Thembekile, as well as her half-sister Zenani, and Zenani’s children Swati and Zaziwe.

By contrast, Mandla has arrived at the hospital alone on the few occasions he has visited his grandfather.

Some insiders blame the split on the case now before the South Gauteng High Court in which Makaziwe and Zenani joined forces with Ismail Ayob, the lawyer their father fired, for control over the Mandela family trusts.

The sisters and Ayob are trying to have Mandela’s friends – including revered struggle lawyer George Bizos, attorney Bally Chuene and Minister of Human Settlements Tokyo Sexwale – removed as directors of the trusts that manage the money generated by the sale of his art.

Although he was initially on his aunts’ side, Mandla has since partially withdrawn his support for their application.

In an interview with City Press earlier this month, he said: “For me it was a shocking experience to see that my own family had taken such a position. I will never, while my grandfather lives, or after his passing, be part of the squabbling over his own assets and his own legacy,” he said.

“We should be preserving his dignity as a family and not be part of stripping it away from him.

“I took an immediate stance to disassociate myself with the position that our very own family members have taken,” said Mandla.

“They are people I love and admire. I never had a meeting with any of my aunts on the subject.”

As Mandela’s eldest male descendent and the chief of Mvezo, Mandla is supposed to be the head of the family.

But word in the villages about 40km from Mthatha is that Mandla’s childlessness is a further sign of the ancestors’ displeasure with him.

His marriage to Tando Mabunu-Mandela disintegrated amid allegations of abuse.

She also succeeded in having half of the more than R5?million in his bank account frozen, including her share of the gift of R3?million his grandfather gave him.

When he owed her R100?000 in legal fees and spousal maintenance, Hayes had the sheriff of the court attach Mandla’s cattle and at least two vehicles.

Tando has also scuppered Mandla’s attempts to wed again and his marriages to Réunion beauty Anais Grimaud and Mbalenhle Makhathini from KwaZulu-Natal have, in effect, been annulled.

Grimaud had an affair and Qheya, the son he thought was his, was exposed as his brother’s after Tando returned to court to allege that her estranged husband was infertile.

Mandla’s only remaining ally appears to be Mandela’s cousin, the Qunu elder Napilisi Mandela, who follows the young chief’s every command.

A source close to the family, opposed to Mandla’s actions, said: “You cannot disturb people who are resting peacefully in their graves and expect no repercussions from the ancestors.

“Once ancestors turn their backs on you, you will have bad luck, struggle to find children, jobs or things like that,” insisted the source.

“What is happening to Mandla shows that the ancestors are unhappy with the way he has carried himself.”

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