Two daughters of Nelson Mandela appear intent on suing their father for control of his artworks and companies to gain access to the millions of euro they generate for the trust of the former South African president.
South Africa's Star newspaper reported yesterday that a legal tussle over the rights to these assets that stretches back to 2004 turned ugly last week after new documents in the case were lodged in court.
The newspaper revealed that Makaziwe and Zenani Mandela look set to fight a court order secured by their father that year giving him the right to instruct his then lawyer, Ismail Ayob, to stop managing his affairs.
Makaziwe Mandela is the former president’s eldest living child and a prominent businesswoman, while Zenani Mandela is South Africa’s ambassador to Argentina.
The allegation was contained in an affidavit lodged in Johannesburg high court by Nelson Mandela’s current lawyer, Bally Chuene, who claims that Ayob is behind the women’s court action.
"Makaziwe and Zenani have sought leave to file answering affidavits in the interdict application [Mandela's 2004 application] on the basis that they are the sole authorised representatives of Harmonieux, Magnifique and Tinancier Investments and Holdings Ltd (also wholly owned by the Mandela Trust)," Chuene said in papers filed on Wednesday.
The move by the sisters follows a separate attempt by them last month to get a court order instructing Chuene, advocate George Bizos SC and minister of human settlements Tokyo Sexwale to remove themselves as trustees and directors of the Mandela Trust.
The women also asked the three men to resign as directors of Harmonieux and Magnifique, companies set up to channel proceeds from the sale of Mandela’s hand prints, with immediate effect. The proceeds to date are estimated at more than Rand 15 million (€1.24 million).
In his replying affidavit, Chuene reportedly said the three trustees had refused to release the trust’s money to the daughters unless they could produce a legal justification for doing so. He said their application was motivated by a desire to get access to their father’s money and to sell his artworks, and that Mandela did not want his children involved in the management of his cash or artworks.
Sexwale told a local newspaper that "what they are doing is to strip and divide amongst themselves Nelson Mandela's clothes while he is still alive".
These developments have concerned South Africans who fear this could cause the “father of the nation” personal turmoil at a time when his health is frail. Mandela will turn 95 in July. He is rarely seen in public and believed to be suffering from memory loss and other age-related illnesses.
Mandela’s extended family is large. He was married three times and has six children, 17 grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren.
Shortly after the row first came to the fore, most of his grandchildren sought to dispel the notion they were “insensitive money grabbers” in a statement issued to the press.
“Our mothers, aunts and lawyer have our full support” they said, adding that the court action was not about “money and exploitation of the Mandela name”.