Tussle over Madiba’s gravesite
Winnie Madikizela-Mandela has threatened to stop the Nelson Mandela Foundation and the Eastern Cape provincial government’s plans to open the former statesman’s grave to tourists.
Her lawyer, Mvuzo Notyesi, said on Friday that she would file an interdict to thwart the plans because she still had a legal claim to her former husband’s home in Qunu, Eastern Cape, where the grave is situated.
“We have been granted leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Appeal,” he said, adding that the order was issued on January 20, and the court would hear the matter.
“We delivered our further papers today [Friday]. Any attempt by the foundation to do all those things shall be interdicted. What they are doing surprises us.”
Only close family members have been able to visit Madiba’s grave, which has been closed to the public. Qunu is about 40km from Mthatha.
Nkosi Thanduxolo Mtirara, chair of the royal family for the kingdom of abaThembu, which includes the Mandelas, said Madikizela-Mandela’s claim to the Qunu property had nothing to do with Madiba’s grave. Regardless of whether or not she won her case to take ownership of the house, traditionally, women had little to do with graves.
“She is claiming the home. The grave is a family matter ... Even if [she] were to win the home, the matter of the grave will still be the responsibility of Zwelivelile [grandson Mandla Mandela’s praise name] as the head of the family and the man in the family,” he said.
“It does not have anything to do with [the] home if she wins it in the end. She is not a Dlomo [the Mandelas’ clan name]. The grave is a matter of the amaDlomo.” Mtirara, however, complained that Mandla Mandela had not been informed by the royal family about the development plans. Nevertheless, he believed that the abaThembu would welcome the ability to access the grave, and it would also provide an opportunity for relatives who have not yet paid their respects to Madiba to visit the site. Mandla Mandela could not be reached for comment as he was in Parliament this week. Nelson Mandela Foundation spokesperson Luzuko Koti declined to comment, referring the matter to the Eastern Cape government and the Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela family trust. This week, foundation board member Tokyo Sexwale announced the plans, saying they were part of the foundation’s commemoration plans for Madiba’s centenary in July next year. Finance, Economic Development, Environmental Affairs and Tourism MEC Sakhumzi Somyo said the project would lead to a tourism boost in the province. But he declined to comment on Madikizela-Mandela’s claim to the Qunu home. Somyo said the plan would include a tourism trail showcasing the province’s legends, including Madiba and Oliver Tambo. They would also develop Mthatha Airport with a new runway and terminal building, and improve local roads. Mthatha’s King Sabata Dalindyebo Local Municipality mayor Dumani Zozo said access to the gravesite would be an essential economic development for the municipality. The plans include expanding Mthatha’s roads network to reduce traffic, and building new hotels around the city. There will also be links between the Nelson Mandela Museum in Mthatha and the grave, he said.