Is The Mandela Legacy At Risk? Tukwini Mandela Battles A Longtime Family Associate Over Control Of Companies

April 21, 2013  |  

Former South African president and apartheid freedom fighter Nelson Mandela has been in failing health as of late, but he’s still a source of ongoing inspiration. However, his family is already fighting over control of the family-owned companies. According to The Huffington Post, Mandela’s granddaughter, Tukwini Mandela, is vying to take over the reigns. She has been an outspoken critic of  a longtime Mandela associate, lawyer George Bizos. Tukwini has accused Bizos of not only insulting her mother but also of slandering the Mandela family name and spreading “blatant lies and innuendo” in a tug-of-war over control of two companies connected to her 94-year-old grandfather.  “The main purpose of the companies is to channel funds from the sale of handprint artwork by Mandela for the benefit of his family,” reports HuffPo.

Bizos defended Mandela during the Rivonia trial in the 1960s that led to the African National Congress leader’s conviction on sabotage charges and a sentence of life imprisonment. Bizos, who was born in Greece, is one of the directors of  the two companies associated with Mandela– Harmonieux Investment Holdings and Magnifique Investment Holdings. “Makaziwe Mandela, Tukwini’s mother,  and her sister Zenani have launched a court case against Bizos and other associates of Nelson Mandela, alleging they should not remain directors of Harmonieux Investment Holdings and Magnifique Investment Holdings because they were not properly appointed. The case also alleges that the trio has neglected its duties at the helm of the companies,” reports HuffPo.

Bizos complained to a local paper that Makaziwe Mandela wanted  to take some company money, estimated to be $1.3 million, without providing details of how it would be used. That is contrary to the provisions of the trust. Therefore we refused to give her the money,” he told The Star newspaper.

Tukwini Mandela issued an open letter to Bizos that was emailed to the Associated Press recently. In it, she urged the lawyer, who is known also as a civil rights activist,  to act in a manner “befitting of your status” in society.

The 84-year-old Bizos, who works at South African human rights group Legal Resources Center,  responded in a statement to AP, saying he had not been disrespectful to Nelson Mandela or his family. “I have been a close friend and supporter of the family for over six decades,” he wrote.

The Mandela family has been the spotlight a lot lately: Tukwini Mandela is the marketing director of House of Mandela Wines, which recently expanded operations to the U.S. And two other granddaughters of Mandela are starring in a U.S. television reality show titled Being Mandela.

Nelson Mandela was South Africa’s first black president and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. He spent 27 years in prison during white  Apartheid rule of  South Africa.

Do you think these sort of legal squabbles soil the Mandela name?

Separately but related, Mandela grandsons Kweku and Ndaba have organized a New York City event tonight in Times Square where the crowd will be invited to share inspiration thoughts and view a video installation. Details here.

Update: The grandchildren of Mandela have issued a statement declaring the lawsuit isn’t about money: that they are not seeking control to gain access to the funds, reports Huffington Post. “Most of us are gainfully employed, work for our own companies and run our own projects,” they said in a statement.

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