Mandela takes the shine off Winnie's goldmine

NELSON MANDELA is challenging the right of his former wife Winnie to pocket the profits she is making from their former home in Soweto.

Since Winnie Madikizela-Mandela opened the humble residence she once shared with her ex-husband to the public three months ago, it has proved a nice little earner.

Up to 1,000 tourists a day pay 5 rand (60p) a head to visit the little house in Orlando West, while Mrs Mandela's sister runs a souvenir shop in the garage which sells soil from the garden in little bottles at a bargain 10 rands.

The only problem is that Mrs Mandela does not own the house which she has turned into a museum. And now, according to the Johannesburg Star newspaper, President Mandela wants her evicted from the house which he as the rightful owner has donated to the Soweto Heritage Trust, run by the township, tourism officials and big business. "The President has said we should evict her because he gave the house to the people," said an embarrassed Sydney Phuti, the trust's deputy chairman. "It's a sensitive matter. We do not want to get an interdict to remove her from the house. We are trying to negotiate."

Mrs Mandela has not lived in the Orlando West house for years.

She prefers her luxury house in Diepkloof, Soweto's answer to Beverly Hills, which was built by an American benefactor. But the plaque now bolted to the outside wall of her old home reads "The Winnie Mandela and Family Museum" - making no mention of her ex- husband from whom she was divorced two years ago.

Nthato Motlana, one of South Africa's most successful businessmen, has been called in to mediate.

But Mrs Mandela's lawyer, Ishmael Semenya - who represented her in the recent public hearings into her alleged involvement in the murder of Soweto activists in the 1980s - suggested Mrs Mandela will fight any move to take away her control of the museum. He claimed Mrs Mandela lodged papers to have the house changed into her name back in 1985.

An ugly legal battle looks likely as the house was, in fact, only registered in the President's name at the beginning of last year.

He had not owned the house previously because under apartheid blacks were denied the right to possess freeholds.

The house plays central role in the Mandela saga. The couple lived there in the late 1950s and it was from there that Mr Mandela went underground and Mrs Mandela, a decade later, was banished from Soweto to the internal exile in the Free State.

But the house is also tainted by scandal. In 1988, angry Soweto residents burnt the house down in disgust at the violent activities of Mrs Mandela's notorious group of bodyguards, the so-called Mandela United Football Team. It has since been rebuilt.