Mandela’s Wives Battle To Own Property


The greatest son of South Africa, Nelson Mandela was married to Winnie Madikizela, but due to certain misgivings, he parted with her after the long walk to freedom and married Graca Machel, a Mozambica politician.

Mandela is no more and Winnie launched a claim to his Qunu house yesterday at the Mthatha High Court. The house in question was reportedly passed on to the Nelson Rholihlahla Mandela Family Trust by Mandela for the benefit of his family.

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Winnie nevertheless, told High Court that the property was given to her by some tribal authority when Mandela was having his long walk and that there was no reason for her to claim the property earlier as she didn’t foresee the possibility of the property being handed to Machel.

According to Winnie, she’s Mandela’s widow for although their civil union was dissolved by divorce, the customary union wasn’t. Their customary marriage of 1958 was never dissolved, she argued.

Winnie established that she’s fighting for her constitutional rights to the property as Mandela’s wife, stressing that there was no dissolution to the traditional marriage.

While at that, she sought for an order to discard a decision by Derek Hanekom who on November 16 1997, as the minister of land affairs then, decided to donate land to Mandela who was the president.

Reporting this incident, Sowetan Live related that Winnie’s lawyers argued that Hanekom ought to have sought the approval of the Thembu community and Madikizela-Mandela before making the decision. To them, Mandela did not have the power to dispose of the land.

Responding, the executors of Mandela’s estate stated that the civil marriage “overrode” the customary marriage. To that, Winnie’s lawyer reportedly argued thus;

To hold [that] the civil divorce dissolved the customary marriage would be to invoke the antiquated and highly offensive repugnance principle which subjugated customary law to civil law.

…In the absence of an order dissolving our (client’s) customary marriage, that marriage still subsisted at the time of Mr Mandela’s death. On this basis…the disposal under Mr Mandela’s will [is] invalid .”

Addressing the media, Advocate George Bizos said; the claim made by Mrs Mandela, we are opposing. Our case is that she did nothing for the 17 years in relation to the property which she now claims is hers .”

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