Nelson Mandela’s ex-wife, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, has demanded his village home for her children, potentially triggering the first legal dispute since former South African president’s death.
Winnie Madikizela-Mandela’s lawyers said she was asserting her “customary rights” by demanding the house.
Nelson Mandela’s estate was provisionally valued at 46 million rand ($4.3 million) following his death in December.
The thrice-married Nelson Mandela divorced Winnie Madikizela-Mandela in 1996.
The couple had two daughters, Zinzi and Zenani.
Nelson Mandela has one surviving child, Makaziwe, from his first marriage to the late Evelyn Mase.
He was married to Graca Machel, the wife of Mozambique’s late President Samora Machel, at the time of his death.
Nelson Mandela’s large family – which includes grandchildren and great grandchildren – was hit by legal disputes over his wealth and burial site as he battled a recurring lung infection in the months leading to his death at the age of 95.
In his will, Nelson Mandela said: “The Qunu property should be used by my family in perpetuity in order to preserve the unity of the Mandela family.”
The executor of the will, South Africa’s Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke, has not yet commented on the letter sent to him by Mvuzo Notyesi Incorporated, the legal firm representing Winnie Madikizela-Mandela.
In the letter, the lawyers said Winnie Madikizela-Mandela obtained the house in Qunu while he was in jail for fighting white minority rule.
“The view we hold is that the aforesaid property belongs to the generation of Mr. Nelson Mandela and Mrs. Winnie Madikizela-Mandela as their common and parental home,” it said.
“It is only in this home that the children and grandchildren of Mrs. Madikizela-Mandela can conduct their own customs and tradition and the house cannot be given to the sole custody of an individual nor can it be generally given to the custody of any person other than the children of Mrs. Madikizela-Mandela and/or her grandchildren,” it added.
The letter said this did not mean that Nelson Mandela’s other children would be denied access to the property.
“However, control and supervision of the property should be properly determined according to custom and tradition,” the lawyers said.
There was an outpouring of grief across the world following Nelson Mandela’s death at the age of 95.
He was revered for battling against apartheid in South Africa and had spent 27 years in jail before being released in 1990 and becoming the country’s first democratically elected president in 1994.
Winnie Madikizela-Mandela was prominent at services to honor the former president after his death.
He did not leave anything for her in his will, which was unveiled in February.
At the time, executors said Graca Machel was likely to waive her claims to the estate, although she was entitled to half of it.
Nelson Mandela also had a home in Houghton, an upmarket suburb in South Africa’s main city, Johannesburg.
His will said it should be used by the family of Makgatho, his deceased son from his marriage to Evelyn Mase.
“It is my wish that it should also serve as a place of gathering of the Mandela family in order to maintain its unity long after my death,” Nelson Mandela wrote.
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