Nelson Mandela leaves $4.1-million estate to family, staff, schools

Former South African President Nelson Mandela's will was read to his descendants in Johannesburg on Monday.
(Alexander Joe / AFP/ Getty Images)

JUBA, South Sudan -- Nelson Mandela left an estate worth about $4.1 million -- a minuscule fortune compared to the wealth of many African leaders -- to his widow, Graca Machel; other family members; staff; and educational institutions, according to a reading of his will in South Africa on Monday.

He also left a generous portion of the royalties from the sale of his books and other items to the African National Congress, to be distributed through a trust and used to promote the governing party’s ideas and national reconciliation.

South Africa’s former leader died Dec. 5, at age 95, after a long battle with recurrent pneumonia. As the country grieved his death and celebrated his life, he lay in state for three days before being buried in his home village of Qunu.

The will was read to his descendants Monday at what executors described as an emotionally charged event. It was released to the public in the interests of transparency -- another rare departure from the secrecy cloaking the finances of many African leaders.


One of the executors, Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke, said at a news conference that the reading went well. “There were clarifications sought from time to time,” he said.

Mandela wrote his will in 2004 and made slight amendments in 2005 and 2008. Moseneke said Mandela carefully explained the reasons for each bequest in the 40-page document, describing it as an “interesting read.”

He said he was not aware of any challenges to the will, but anyone who wishes to dispute it has 90 days to do so.

The Mandela clan was involved in acrimonious legal disputes last year. At one stage, two daughters from previous marriages, Makaziwe and Zenani, sued to remove directors from the boards of two companies that support a family trust, in order to access Mandela’s money. They later withdrew the action.

The family has also split over the leadership of the clan in the wake of Mandela’s death, with his eldest daughter, Makaziwe, and a grandson, Mandla, on opposing sides. At one point last year, Mandla claimed that his brothers were illegitimate.

The tense family relationships have ignited speculation that Mandela’s lengthy, complex will may trigger further legal contests over proceeds from his famous name.

Graca Machel is entitled under South African law to half Mandela’s estate. But if she waives that right within 90 days, she inherits three houses and their contents, a property in Mozambique, motor vehicles, her jewelry, artworks and the money in accounts registered in her name.

Her children from a previous marriage to the late Mozambique president, Samora Machel, would receive about $300,000 each if she renounces her 50% claim, while Samora Machel’s children from his previous marriage would get nearly $9,000 each.


Mandela had already given his surviving daughters, Makaziwe, Zindzi and Zenani, and two granddaughters, Nandi and Ndileka, about $300,000 each, and they receive no further amounts.

Mandela left $300,000 to each of four grandchildren -- Mandla, Ndaba, Mbuso and Andile -- and just over $9,000 to other grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

South African media reported that Mandela’s second wife, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, did not get a bequest.

Mandela left about $4,500 to each of nine staff members, including his secretary, chauffeur, personal assistant and chefs.


His personal assistant, Zelda la Grange, tweeted that the bequest was “an unexpected, priceless gesture that left me humbled. It’s testament to the generosity of Madiba’s character that he acknowledged so many.”

One of his chefs, Xoliswa Ndoyiya, told Reuters news agency, “It really makes me happy.”

“I didn’t think Tata was thinking of leaving something for me,” she said, using the affectionate term meaning “father” that most South Africans use for Mandela.

Adam Habib, vice chancellor of the University of the Witwatersrand, said Mandela’s bequests of about $9,000 to the institution and to other schools where he had studied or lived were “a magnificent gesture from a great humanitarian.”


The bequest for the ANC will be provided via the NRM Family Trust, which has the discretion to pay the party between 10% and 30% of the royalties owed to Mandela’s estate.

He left his houses in the Johannesburg suburb Houghton and in Qunu to the trust for use of family members, to promote family unity.

Twitter: @latimesdixon