High profile South African president and activist, Nelson Mandela, died in 2013 and it appears that despite leaving behind a detailed will, a bitter estate battle has erupted among members of his family.
Mandela’s first wife Winnie, whom he divorced in 1996, has contested the will upon discovering that she had been left out of his $4.3 million estate. Mandela made provision for his current wife, children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren and left small bequests to educational institutions. In h is will, Mandela made his wishes clear for his ancestral home, his Qunu homestead, to be used to forever reunite his family.
However Winnie has contested the will, claiming that the Qunu homestead belongs to her. Her lawyers state that she is not attacking the will, but asserting her traditional rights. Under traditional African law, she would be entitled to the homestead despite being divorced from Mandela.
It’s not the first time there have been legal proceedings over the Qunu homestead. Fifteen members of Mandela’s family went to court in 2013 to have family bones exhumed and returned to the Qunu home, where Mandela grew up. Critics allege that the family was simply trying to gain control over future tourist revenue for the site.
What will happen in this tussle between traditional African law and modern South African law remains to be seen. But it’s true that even the clearest and most detailed will can be contested if those left behind feel that it’s unfair.