Pinky Khoabane

What we can glean from his bequests is that Mandela was wise, an African traditionalist and a humanitarian committed to marriage and family, writes Pinky Khoabane.



In the months leading up to Nelson Mandela’s death on December 5, a public feud erupted between Mandela’s eldest living daughter, Makaziwe, and grandson, Mandla, leading to the debate about who, in the absence of the former statesman, was the head of the family.

It was felt, in some quarters, that Makaziwe had no claim, given she is a married woman with her own family to attend to. However, from a traditionalist perspective, that she is married is not the issue; the fact that she’s a woman is reason enough to discount her claim.

As is customary practice in patriarchal families, it is the eldest male alive who takes the reins.

Mandla’s father is Mandela’s second son, Makhatho.

When Makhato died, his son then succeeded him, hence Mandla was chosen by his grandfather, in 2007, to lead his clan of Thembu.

However, some chiefs argued that an aunt still had a say in the running of the family as the eldest member of the family.


The big question then was: “What would Mandela, the liberal democrat, want?”

Mandela, in his will, seems to agree with traditionalists who say Mandla is the head. In typical African tradition of inheritance, the first boy in the family lineage inherits the biggest share if not all the assets.


Mandla inherited the chieftainship of the Mveso tribe and the land while his grandfather was alive. Together with his brothers, Ndaba, Mbuso and Andile, he will also have the use of the Houghton house which, it was said in the will, would be a place from which the Mandela legacy would be continued.

Mandla, his brothers and aunts were left R3 million each. So were the two grandchildren from his first son, Thembekile. The other grandchildren were left R100 000 each.

Mandla, in terms of the will, is granted higher status than his aunt.

It is also interesting that the grandchildren from the statesman’s sons have been granted more money than those from his daughters.

Is it sheer coincidence that the grandchildren who received R100 000 are from the women?

Those who have tried to portray Mandela as a man who had transcended his African traditional practices will argue that the grandchildren from the sons received the same amount as their aunts because they are orphaned.

Patriarchal family structures give great importance to boys and men – although there are a variety of systems that have, over the years, given some importance to women.

The argument from traditionalists has been that the girls will not carry the family name.

We are therefore bound to hear the justification of this discrepancy on the basis that “the grandchildren from the Mandela women are not Mandelas”.

If the will is anything to go by, Mandela, the African traditionalist, thought this way too.

He seems to have given the second generation from his boys the same status as that of the first-generation women.

It is this generation that would, in traditional families, where the wife and the children assume the men’s surname, hold the Mandela name and its continuation.

In fact, the usage of the Mandela name by the grandchildren from his daughters is a topic much talked about.

They have been mocked for choosing their grandfather’s surname over their father’s.

What we can glean from his bequests is that Mandela was wise, an African traditionalist and a humanitarian committed to marriage and family.

Although he cared deeply for his wife, Graça Machel, to whom he left properties in Mozambique and artefacts from the Houghton home, he hardly had confidence in her unifying the much-fractured Mandela family and as an African man would, he left the task to the boys.

The will also gives insight into why Winnie’s two daughters, Makaziwe and Zenani, may have scrambled for the removal of the trustees of one of Mandela’s trusts – lawyers George Bizos and Bally Chuene, and Tokyo Sexwale.

The daughters were each left R3m which they received during his lifetime, and were left no further money in the will.

Mandela’s commitment and love for the ANC transcends the grave, closing the debate about his allegiance to other political parties, as the DA once claimed. His beloved ANC will receive royalties.


* Khoabane is a writer, author and columnist

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Newspapers.

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