Johannesburg. The ex-wife of South Africa’s first black President Nelson Mandela has demanded his village home for her children, potentially triggering the first legal dispute since his death.
Winnie Madikiela-Mandela’s lawyers said she was asserting her “customary rights” by demanding the house.
Mr Mandela’s estate was provisionally valued at 46m rand ($4.3m; £2.5m) following his death in December.
The thrice-married Mr Mandela divorced Mrs Madikizela-Mandela in 1996.
The couple had two daughters, Zinzi and Zenani. Mr Mandela has one surviving child, Makaziwe, from his first marriage to the late Evelyn Mase. He was married to Graca Machel, the wife of Mozambique’s late President Samora Machel, at the time of his death.
His large family - which includes grandchildren and great grandchildren - was hit by legal disputes over his wealth and burial site as he battled a recurring lung infection in the months leading to his death at the age of 95. In his will, the ex-president said: “The Qunu property should be used by my family in perpetuity in order to preserve the unity of the Mandela family.” The executor of the will, South Africa’s Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke, has not yet commented on the letter sent to him by Mvuzo Notyesi Incorporated, the legal firm representing Mrs Madikizela-Mandela.
In the letter, seen by the BBC, the lawyers said Mrs Madikizela-Mandela obtained the house in Qunu while he was in jail for fighting white minority rule.
“The view we hold is that the aforesaid property belongs to the generation of Mr Nelson Mandela and Mrs Winnie Madikizela-Mandela as their common and parental home,” it said.
“It is only in this home that the children and grandchildren of Mrs Madikizela-Mandela can conduct their own customs and tradition and the house cannot be given to the sole custody of an individual nor can it be generally given to the custody of any person other than the children of Mrs Madikizela-Mandela and/or her grandchildren,” it added.
The letter said this did not mean that Mr Mandela’s other children would be denied access to the property.
“However, control and supervision of the property should be properly determined according to custom and tradition,” the lawyers said.
There was an outpouring of grief across the world following Mr Mandela’s death at the age of 95.
He was revered for battling against apartheid in South Africa and had spent 27 years in jail before being released in 1990 and becoming the country’s first democratically elected president in 1994.