Struggle veteran Matthews “MK” Malefane and the family of Winnie Madikizela-Mandela are at odds over plans to build a museum in Brandfort to honour her.
He claims her family, to whom he was once close, has sidelined him. Malefane lived with Madikizela-Mandela in Brandfort in the 1980s, after the apartheid regime banished her there. He said that before her death, Madikizela-Mandela pleaded with him not to forget Brandfort and asked him to steer her legacy project there.
But after the struggle icon died last month, Malefane claims he has been declared persona non grata by Madikizela-Mandela’s grandson Zinhle Mandela-Dlamini, who has represented the family in talks with the department of arts and culture about the project.
Malefane said only he, Madikizela-Mandela’s daughter Zindzi, and Zindzi’s children Zoleka and Zondwa, had the right to be involved.
“Zoleka and Zondwa were born in Brandfort. I raised them. In their first five years I was their father, brother, mother and everything. But they are somehow avoiding to communicate with me directly. They are allowing others, who do not matter and who don’t even know the Brandfort story, to speak on their behalf,” he said.
He claimed that Madikizela-Mandela’s grandchildren are “spoilt kids who don’t care about Brandfort”.
“It is very painful. To them she’s a grandmother. She’s an ATM. They don’t identify. They have everything they wish for,” he fumed.
Mandela-Dlamini hit back, saying: “It is simply astonishing that he can make such scurrilous allegations. Could he kindly provide the receipts of how much has been drawn by the grandchildren from the alleged ATM?
"If these words indeed do come from Mr Malefane, they show that he lacks the wisdom and grace one would normally associate with the elderly. If we chose to depend on our grandmother for any form of support it was, and is, our choice. We do not request such support from the Malefane’s family legacy as he demands from the Madikizela-Mandela family,” he said.
Mandela-Dlamini said Malefane should produce proof of his claims that his grandmother tasked him with protecting her legacy in Brandfort.
“If he has a letter of authorisation mandating him to participate in her legacy, he must produce it, or he will face legal challenges from us. But there is nothing to stop Mr Malefane from building a monument or a museum for our grandmother. What is surprising is that he waited until after her death to suddenly appoint himself the champion of the Winnie Madikizela-Mandela museum. While it is true that Mr Malefane was allowed to live at the house in Brandfort, that does not qualify him to be involved in the building of any museum,” he said.
Malefane insisted he was not interested in money, but wanted a meeting with Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa and Telecommunications Minister Siyabonga Cwele.
The ANC national executive committee had tasked them with overseeing the project. He wanted to ensure the museum was properly designed, built and sustainably established to keep Madikizela-Mandela’s legacy alive.
The museum, he said, should run youth empowerment projects. This was because Madikizela-Mandela was banished to Brandfort after the apartheid government blamed her for inciting the Soweto youth uprising.
In a letter dated August 5 2016, Madikizela-Mandela outlined the role Malefane played in Brandfort. The letter, which she signed, is addressed to the Government Employees Pension Fund and is titled: “testimonial in support of Matthews Mabitsela-Kotsekgolo (MK) Malefane special pension application”.
Madikizela-Mandela wrote that between 1980 and 1985, Malefane was based “full-time … at our banishment home … in Brandfort” and commuted regularly between there and the Mandelas’ home in Orlando West.
He facilitated “solidarity engagements and visits to me in Brandfort” by “national and foreign leaders and international media”, ran the crèche, feeding scheme and clinic outside her house and undertook “consultation missions to the ANC leadership in Swaziland and Lesotho, and … ferried recruits from the country into exile for education and military training”.
Mandela-Dlamini said his grandmother had entrusted him, not Malefane, with guarding her legacy.
“Mama, well before her passing, mandated myself and Mrs Tebogo Morgan, in writing, to canvass the inputs of family in protecting and advancing her legacy,” he said.
He and his grandmother had submitted a detailed, holistic proposal about her legacy to Mthethwa’s department, which was considering it. Meetings had been held with the department, consultants and curators, who were paid for their time.
“This proposal is not limited to pigeonholing her legacy to the Brandfort house only. No grandchildren or any other member of the family has benefited financially from Mama’s legacy to date. If MK is in possession of any information to the contrary, can he make it available to you? MK’s claims around Brandfort reduce her legacy to a three-room-house museum. I cannot overemphasise that Mama’s legacy was not only about Brandfort, it is much greater than that. Living with Mama, if indeed he lived there, that doesn’t entitle him or anyone else to claim her legacy,” Mandela-Dlamini said.
Family spokesperson Victor Dlamini said Malefane had not had anything to do with Madikizela-Mandela for many years.
“It is regrettable that he now seeks to re-enter her life when she is no longer alive.”
Telecommunications department spokesperson Siya Qoza said they are not aware of Malefane having made contact with Cwele.
Mthethwa’s spokesperson, Asanda Magaqa, said Mthethwa has neither seen nor received any correspondence from Malefane. “The department received a letter late last year stating the names of two individuals to act as representatives of the late Winnie Madikizela-Mandela including Dr Zinhle Mandela-Dlamini. DAC can only adhere to her wishes.”
Magaqa said Malefane’s allegations that he was being sidelined were “unfactual, baseless and an extremely unfair accusation”.
“When an individual names family members as those that must represent her or him, it would be imprudent, disrespectful and unwise to go against that individual’s wishes,” Magaqa said.
“In any home, particularly an African home, it is unheard of for an individual who is not a member of that family to expect or feel entitled to having a say in that particular family’s matters. DAC is satisfied that Madikizela-Mandela and her family made it clear who [should] be consulted where the Brandfort Museum is concerned.”