Mandela: It’s all about the money

"It seems like anyone can come and claim to be a Mandela and jump on the bandwagon," Chief Mandla Mandela, Nelson Mandela's grandson, said ­bitterly at a press briefing this week.

"There are," he said, "many people parading as Mandelas", and he went into family genealogy to explain why some have legitimacy and some don't – and reasserted his own claims to the chieftainship.

That's just one issue, though, in a tangle of family and financial issues that has pitted the chief against others such as Nelson Mandela's eldest ­surviving daughter, Makaziwe Mandela, who has led a court battle against her nephew, the chief.

Now bones are being exhumed and moved, even as a disagreement continues about where Nelson Mandela is to be buried. At the same time, Makaziwe has sued to have George Bizos, Tokyo Sexwale and Bally Chuene removed as directors of two companies operating under the Mandela Trust umbrella.

Mandla Mandela, at his press briefing, was clear that the issues all revolved around money.


He accused his opponents of such greed, but his claims are also to do with money: he wants the Mandela graves and shrine, potentially a huge money-spinner, to be under his control.

He calls it "development" for a poor rural community, and in some ways it is, but the chief's personal interests are also quite apparent. He's a ­shining example of the confusion of personal, political and economic issues that characterises South Africa's post-1994 elite.

It's all embarrassing and upsetting, particularly because it happens while Nelson Mandela himself lies at death's door. None of those many Mandelas fighting over his personal legacy has, in all this, shown any sign of being deserving of it.

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