Family members of the legendary leader, Nelson Mandela have not contested his 40-page will, according to Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke who briefed the media in Johannesburg after the will was read to the family this morning. Flanked by Mandela’s lawyer and long-time friend, George Bizos and Professor Njabulo Ndebele, chairperson of The Mandela Rhodes Foundation, Judge Moseneke said it was “an occasion charged with emotions.” Because the will was so lengthy, it took longer to read than expected. He added that members of the family had sought certain “clarifications” to the will, but no contest had been lodged. The will was “read, registered and accepted,” he said.
It was revealed at the press conference, attended by international and local media, that Nelson Mandela’s estate has been provisionally estimated at R46 million (more than $4 million). Judge Moseneke said they had done a “commonsensical assessment” of his assets, but it may not be accurate. The assessment was based on “rough and ready estimates,” he said, and excluded royalties which are “prospective,” as well as the assets that are in the three family trusts, the Nelson Mandela Trust, the Mandela Trust, and the Nelson Rolihlahla Family Trust.
During the former president’s long illness prior to his death, there were bitter fights between members of the family over issues as varied as artworks and graves. His two daughters Zenani and Makaziwe tried to snatch control of one of the family trusts that is estimated to manage about $2.4 million in artwork royalties copyrighted to the Nelson Mandela name. His daughters were also said to have argued openly about the inheritance of furniture in Mandela’s Houghton home. More recently, his oldest surviving son, Makaziwe and grandson Mandla battled about the Mandela burial plot, and Mandla was accused of exhuming bodies and reburying them elsewhere. There were also reports that some members of the family might challenge the will; but so far it has not been contested by anyone.
Mandela was married to his third wife, Graça Machel at the time of his death last year. Because they were married in community of property, she is entitled to half of the estate. However she has a choice that has to be decided within 90 days. Either she can take specified assets (including several properties in Mozambique) listed subject to certain suspensive conditions – in which case she must agree to “waive all and any rights to (further claims to) the estate”; or she can claim “exactly half of the estate.” Three South African properties were mentioned in the will: the Houghton house, the Mandela’s Xunu home, and a property in Umtata.
Judge Moseneke said he did not know where Graça Machel was planning to live. However, according to the summary of the will issued to the media, the Houghton house will be a “place of gathering” for the Mandela clan to “maintain its unity long after my death.” It would also be used by his late son, Makgatho’s family.
In addition to the long list of family members, including his two previous wives, Evelyn Wase and Winnie Madikizela Mandela, children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, Mandela left R50,000 (about $4,000) to a personal staff members including his former secretary, Zelda la Grange. He also left about R1 million (about $90,000) to both the Witwatersrand and Fort Hare universities, and about R100,000 (about $9,000) each to a school in Qunu and another in Orlando West. The African National Congress is set to receive royalties from the estate, expressly to promote “principles of reconciliation” and policies of the party.
During his lifetime, Mandela loaned each of his children an amount of R3 million (about $270 000); those who have not repaid the money will have the debt scrapped.
Judge Moseneke said it was very important that there was “full transparency” in the handling of Nelson Mandela’s estate. For this reason it had been read “from page to page” to all descendants and family members, as well as members of his staff. The media was issued with an executive summary of the will because it was considered to be of “extensive public interest.” If the will is to be contested by anyone, this must be done within 90 days.
By Penny Swift