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Fri­day will mark the 10th an­niver­sary of the death of the leg­endary Miriam Makeba, a civil rights ac­tivist and the first African mu­sic star to be­come a global celebrity. How­ever, there are pre­cious few memo­rial events planned, Makeba’s es­tate has still not been wound up and there has been an es­ca­la­tion in the le­gal bat­tle be­tween Makeba’s grand­chil­dren Zenzi and Lu­mumba Lee, who es­tab­lished the Miriam Makeba Foun­da­tion, and two of the trustees of the ZM Makeba Trust that Makeba her­self set up to pro­tect her legacy, along­side Siyan­disa Mu­sic, to con­trol her copy­right.

Un­law­ful spend­ing?

Now a com­plaint lodged with the Pub­lic Pro­tec­tor by one of the trustees is ac­cus­ing the depart­ment of arts and cul­ture of fu­elling the war by un­law­fully fund­ing the grand­chil­dren’s pri­vate le­gal ac­tions with pub­lic money.

In the course of our on­go­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tion, City Press has seen in­voices, pay­ment stubs and ac­knowl­edge­ments of pay­ment to the value of al­most R3 mil­lion to top pri­vate law firms since 2009 to rep­re­sent the Lees in their war against their grand­mother’s trust, of which they are also trustees. Some of these are con­tained in more than 50 emails in pos­ses­sion of City Press be­tween the Lees and up to 10 mem­bers of the depart­ment, in­clud­ing Arts and Cul­ture Min­is­ter Nathi Mthethwa.

Mthethwa has claimed that the spend is en­abled un­der the apartheid-era Cul­ture Pro­mo­tion Act. But the com­plaint, by mul­ti­juris­dic­tional copy­right lawyer and foren­sics ex­pert and trustee Graeme Gil­fil­lan with sup­port­ing le­gal work by at­tor­ney Thokozani Mthembu, claims it is un­law­ful, ir­reg­u­lar and waste­ful un­der the act for the state to pay pri­vate at­tor­neys for a pri­vate mat­ter.

Le­gal ad­vice sought by City Press con­curs, say­ing it will be a stretch for the state to prove why it is fund­ing a pri­vate mat­ter us­ing an act in­tended “for the preser­va­tion, de­vel­op­ment, fos­ter­ing and ex­ten­sion of cul­ture in the Repub­lic” – and why pri­vate at­tor­neys were used and not state ones.

Queries sent to Trea­sury this week were re­ferred to the depart­ment and the Au­di­tor-Gen­eral as Trea­sury “does not have ac­cess to that level of de­tail”. The Au­di­torGen­eral’s of­fice said it “has not au­dited the mat­ters” and re­ferred City Press to the depart­ment.

The depart­ment’s Zi­masa Ve­laphi said: “I have spo­ken to the peo­ple who are sup­posed to give me the re­sponses and, un­for­tu­nately, they can only pro­vide the in­for­ma­tion next week.”

The Lees did not re­spond to queries, ei­ther.

A host of dra­matic emails

In email ex­changes be­tween Au­gust and Oc­to­ber, Zenzi is adamant that three top le­gal teams are needed for a high court ac­tion sched­uled for early next year. A tense stand-off de­vel­ops be­tween her and the depart­ment’s le­gal boss, Given Mditshwa, who in­sists the Lees use the depart­ment’s pre­ferred law firm LM At­tor­neys. In the end, Mditshwa agrees to go with the Lees’ lawyers, Berndt & La Vita At­tor­neys, who the depart­ment paid R375 000 in ad­vance.

The Lees be­lieve, in the emails, that the case will prove once and for all that they own their grand­mother’s in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty. It’s an ar­gu­ment that was sup­ported by the min­is­ter in a press re­lease in June: “The court vic­tory has re­in­forced that Mama Miriam Makeba be­longs to her fam­ily, and the na­tion at large.”

But Gil­fil­lan and his fel­low trustee Du­misani Motha, who is Makeba’s nephew, and their at­tor­ney Mthembu, deny the high court can make such a rul­ing.

It arose af­ter Sun In­ter­na­tional paid R30 000 to the Lees to in­duct Makeba into a hall of fame. The trust’s Siyan­disa Mu­sic in­ter­dicted this and the project was called off. Siyan­disa took the Lees and Sun In­ter­na­tional to court to pay for costs in­curred.

The judg­ment in the mat­ter agrees that the trust owns Makeba’s rights, but rules that a vi­tal res­o­lu­tion per­tain­ing to Siyan­disa’s rights to li­cence was in­cluded only in an an­swer­ing af­fi­davit in­stead of a found­ing one. The trust was granted the right to re­file the case, which it has done.

The state has spent al­most R2 mil­lion on the case so far. The other R1 mil­lion was paid to ENS Africa shortly af­ter Makeba died, for a court ac­tion to force the re­moval of Gil­fil­lan and Motha as trustees, which failed.

By then, the Lees had ap­proached the Mas­ter of the Court and had been made trustees them­selves. City Press has pre­vi­ously re­ported on how Makeba, ac­cord­ing to busi­ness as­so­ci­ates and fam­ily mem­bers, al­legedly did not want her grand­chil­dren to be trustees, but ben­e­fi­cia­ries of the trust, and deter­mined that no trustee may also be a ben­e­fi­ciary.

Zenzi has con­sis­tently de­nied this. She pre­vi­ously told City Press: “[Gil­fil­lan and Motha] are thieves ... The Mas­ter of the Court made us trustees. That is what our grand­mother wanted. They are not sup­posed to be trustees.”

The trust’s an­nual fi­nan­cials con­firm that Gil­fil­lan and Motha have not ben­e­fited fi­nan­cially from it.

City Press has also ob­tained cor­re­spon­dence that shows that Makeba’s es­tate is still not wound up. Lu­mumba is the ex­ecu­tor, but has failed, de­spite re­tain­ing three sep­a­rate at­tor­neys, to pro­vide a liq­ui­da­tion and dis­tri­bu­tion ac­count to au­thor­i­ties that would in­clude a list of Makeba’s per­sonal pos­ses­sions.

A muted an­niver­sary

In­sid­ers say the war be­tween the trust and the grand­chil­dren is the pri­mary rea­son there are so few 10th an­niver­sary events be­ing planned for Fri­day, as those wish­ing to se­cure Makeba’s rights for events aren’t sure who to be­lieve.

In New York, Wash­ing­ton and Lon­don, there are film



What is your favourite mem­ory of Miriam Makeba? SMS us on 35697 us­ing the key­word MAKEBA and tell us what you think. Please in­clude your name and prov­ince. SMSes cost R1.50. By par­tic­i­pat­ing, you agree to re­ceive oc­ca­sional mar­ket­ing ma­te­rial

screen­ings and con­certs planned, but even a pro­posed memo­rial lec­ture in Jo­han­nes­burg has been shelved.

Makeba’s legacy, how­ever, can­not be de­nied. She has in­flu­enced sev­eral gen­er­a­tions of artists, and shared stages with Harry Be­la­fonte, Dizzy Gille­spie and Nina Si­mone, and was mar­ried to the now late jazz leg­end Hugh Masekela and Black Pan­ther Stokely Carmichael. City Press re­ported on Septem­ber 9 in a story ti­tled “Mega score for ‘vic­timised’ Mpumalanga exec” that for­mer Mpumalanga Eco­nomic Growth Agency (Mega) chief ex­ec­u­tive Boyce Mkhize had laid trumped-up charges against Mega’s for­mer chief fi­nance of­fi­cer, Velile Mqhum, and that he had forced the lat­ter to pay a ser­vice provider in ad­vance.

Mkhize com­plained to the Press Om­buds­man that his de­nials of the claims were not cap­tured in the story.

The om­buds­man found that “it is in­trin­si­cally un­fair to re­fer to the al­le­ga­tions (which, in it­self, was not wrong to do) with­out mir­ror­ing the de­nials as well”, and or­dered City Press to apol­o­gise.

City Press apol­o­gises to Mkhize for un­fairly ne­glect­ing to re­port on his de­nial that he laid trumped-up charges against Mqhum and that he had forced the lat­ter to pay a ser­vice provider in ad­vance; and for un­nec­es­sar­ily tar­nish­ing his rep­u­ta­tion in this process.

The om­buds­man dis­missed Mkhize’s other com­plaints, in­clud­ing that the re­portage was ma­li­cious or un­jus­ti­fied.

Visit press­coun­ for the full find­ing.


QUEEN A young Makeba’s US fame grew, but she never strayed from her African roots in sound and style


PI­O­NEER Makeba was the first black woman to have a top-10 world­wide hit with Pata Pata in 1967


STRAIGHT TALKER Af­ter 31 years in ex­ile, Makeba re­turned home when Nel­son Man­dela was re­leased from prison


NA­TIONAL HE­ROES For­mer pres­i­dent Nel­son Man­dela de­scribed Makeba as ‘South Africa’s first lady of song’

VOICE OF A NA­TION Miriam Makeba died of a heart at­tack at mid­night Ital­ian time on Novem­ber 9 af­ter per­form­ing at a con­cert for Roberto Sa­viano, a jour­nal­ist threat­ened with death for ex­pos­ing the mafia in that coun­try

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