Johannesburg - Winnie Madikizela-Mandela’s lawyer has denied claims that his client “opportunistically” waited until Nelson Mandela died to claim ownership of the Qunu property.
Madikizela-Mandela filed papers in the Mthatha High Court last October, applying for the Qunu property to be handed back to her.
She said its registration in the former president’s name was unlawful and should be set aside.
She claimed in court papers that the site where the Qunu house had been built was allocated to her in 1989 while Mandela was still in prison.
On Monday, advocate George Bizos filed papers in the court in response to Madikizela-Mandela’s claim.
He accused Madikizela-Mandela of “opportunistically” waiting until Mandela died before claiming ownership of the property.
Bizos also said Madikizela-Mandela did not even have a valid explanation as to why she could claim ownership of the property while Mandela was still alive.
“Events she narrated as to what supposedly happened in 1989 are nothing but a figment of her own imagination,” Bizos said.
Speaking to The Star on Tuesday, Madikizela-Mandela’s lawyer said they could not have lodged an application earlier because no one knew the contents of the will. Mvuzo Notyesi said his client had received a copy of the will only last August.
Madikizela-Mandela then approached him for legal assistance. He said they went the legal route only after they had exhausted other ways of dealing with the issue.
“We engaged with the executors of the estate. However, they refused to accede to the requests we made, hence we took the matter to court.
“The claim is not opportunistic. It could not have been done before because no one knew the contents of the will. There would have also been no case had the will not bequeathed the property to other persons,” he said.
Notyesi said he would not go into the matter deeply as a replying affidavit would be lodged in a few days.
Bizos - who is acting on behalf of the executors of Mandela’s estate - said in an affidavit that Mandela and Madikizela-Mandela were married out of community of property and their divorce had been finalised in 1996.
The Qunu property was registered under Mandela’s name in 1998 and Madikizela-Mandela could therefore not lay any claim to it, he said.
“The applicant must have been aware of the registration since it took effect in 1998.
“The community meeting that approved the transfer of the property took place in January 1995. It was a public meeting; the applicant would have been aware of this decision.
“A further factor militating against the applicant is that the property has consistently, over the past 15 years, been referred to in the media and elsewhere as ‘Mr Mandela’s home’ and ‘Mr Mandela’s house’.”
If Madikizela-Mandela was genuine in her belief that the property belonged to her and not Mandela, she would have taken appropriate steps to set the record straight, he said.
“That she took no steps despite public declarations that the property is Mr Mandela’s ‘house’ or ‘home’ belies her claim of exclusive ownership,” said Bizos.