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Patriarch Nelson Mandela's passing could reignite family's feud

Saturday, 7 December 2013 - 8:37am IST | Agency: Daily Telegraph

Nelson Mandela's death is likely to trigger a fresh round of legal wrangling within his troubled family over who takes ownership of the former president's lucrative legacy and his money.

Mandela's multi-million pound fortune sits in a series of trusts controlled by lawyers and other close associates, while his name is potentially worth millions more in endorsements and branding. This year, two of Mandela's daughters went to court in an attempt to wrest control of a 1 million pounds trust fund created from the sale of his handprints. The case caused outrage in South Africa, with family friends suggesting Mandela had put the money into a special fund because he "did not trust" his children with it. The action was dropped without explanation by Makaziwe and Zenani Mandela in October, but there are now fears of further acrimony over his financial legacy.

Mandela was married three times and had six children - three of whom, all daughters, survive - and 17 grandchildren along with a growing number of great grandchildren. The next big dispute could well centre around his will, which one source warned "could be the next big battle", adding: "There is considerable concern that it will be open season." It is thought to be a complex document, but those close to the family believe that lawyers acting for Makaziwe and Zenani may have already drawn a legal argument that it should be disregarded since Mandela had already lost his mental faculties when it was drafted. A dispute over family graves is also still rumbling on.

Nelson Mandela's oldest grandson has been accused of digging up the remains of some of his relations and moving them to his home village without the rest of the family's knowledge. Some have suggested the exhumation was conducted so that Mandla Mandela, an ANC MP, could make "monetary gain" from the inevitable tourist influx to a single Mandela family burial plot. There is also likely to be a battle for control of "brand Mandela". The name potentially has a huge global reach, but so far its use has been carefully controlled by The Nelson Mandela Foundation.

Jeremy Sampson, chairman of marketing firm Interbrand Sampson, suggested that the Mandela brand was valuable to exploitation. "It's impossible to put a monetary value on what he is worth - to South Africa, he is priceless," he said. Those close to the family say his daughters' handprints lawsuit was a "shot across the bows" to others tied up with his legacy.

The former South African president's name and image are trademarked but there is nothing to stop family members who share the Mandela surname from using it as they wish. It has already featured in a series of enterprises run by his family - the House of Mandela wine label, the Long Walk to Freedom clothing range and Being Mandela, a reality television show in which his granddaughters star.

The Mandelas have defended their actions, saying the legal tussles represent their attempt to wrest control of a name that has for too many years been used by others. Speaking at the launch of the Long Walk to Freedom clothing brand, his grandson Ndaba said: "As a family, we are addressing this gravy train so many people have been on. In future, we will not participate in any products or programmes for anyone."

Mandela's oldest daughter Maki, who sits on the board of companies including Nestle, said it was unfair that the family should be pilloried for making use of what they have. "I don't hear anybody criticising the Rothschilds for using their name," she added.

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