Mandela Company Dispute Heats Up

Members of the Mandela family want control of two companies linked to the former leader but company directors say they're only out to misuse company funds.

Posted: 04/18/2013 09:59 AM EDT

The companies in dispute sell handprint artwork by Mandela. (Photo: EPA/KIM LUDBROOK /LANDOV)

The Mandela family’s public fight to gain control over two companies tied to the former South African president Nelson Mandela has reached a new level of contention as Mandela’s grandchildren issue another statement defending the family.

On Thursday, Mandela's grandchildren released a statement alleging that former business associates of the anti-apartheid icon, including lawyer George Bizos, have incorrectly portrayed the Mandela family as "insensitive money-grabbers."

The dispute centers on two companies that were set up for the purpose of benefiting the Mandela family. On Monday, Mandela’s daughters, Makaziwe and Zenani, filed papers in court to remove lawyers George Bizos and Bally Chuene and businessman Tokyo Sexwale as directors of the companies.

Members of the Mandela family in favor of their removal say that the three neglected their duties as directors.

However, ahead of the filing, Bizos, one of the directors and long-time associate of Nelson Mandela, spoke out against Mandela’s daughter Makaziwe, claiming that she was attempting to take up to $1.3 million in company money without providing an explanation.

“This woman wanted to take over the money, not for any specific purpose, and distribute it to members of the family,” he said according to South Africa’s The Star newspaper. “That is contrary to the provisions of the trust. Therefore we refused to give her the money.”

The statement released by the Mandelas Thursday said that the goal of the legal action is to “safeguard the interests of beneficiaries and shareholders, in line with a trust set up by Mandela to provide for his family,” the Associated Press reported.

However, not all of the Mandelas are on board with the push to remove the trio as directors of the companies. Mandela’s grandson Mandla Mandela has been vocal about his desire to stay out of the fray and has even threatened to take his aunts to court for dragging him into the ordeal.

Mandla’s name appeared among Mandela’s 17 beneficiaries who supported the action filed against the directors Monday, but he claims that he never agreed to support the action.

“…at no point have I ever sat with Ismail Ayob [Mandela family’s attorney] alone or in a family meeting to instruct him to initiate legal proceedings against all the individuals mentioned in the papers," South Africa's ioL news reports. "I consider it an insult any suggestion that I can go to court to fight over my grandfather’s monies.”

The companies, Harmonieux Investment Holdings and Magnifique Investment Holdings, sell handprint artwork by Mandela.

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