Mandela's heir defies court order (and the other Mrs Mandela) to marry again

Clan chief wed in traditional ceremony says estranged partner is delaying divorce

Cape Town

Nelson Mandela's chosen political heir – his grandson Mandla – has defied a court order and married for the second time in less than two years, even though the divorce from his first wife has yet to be finalised.

The marriage of the MP, 37, to Nodiyala Mbali Makhathini on Christmas Eve has reignited a debate in South Africa over polygamy and the contradictory cohabitation of customary and Western-inspired law. Mandla Mandela, who heads the Mandela clan, married Makhathini at a traditional ceremony at his Mvezo Royal Palace in the Eastern Cape, in defiance of a legal ban granted to his first wife, Tando Mabunu-Mandela.

Mrs Mabunu-Mandela, whom Mandla wed in a civil ceremony in 2004, is seeking to have the marriage annulled. This year, she obtained the annulment of a customary marriage he entered into in March 2010 with a French woman, Anais Grimaud.

Her lawyer, Wesley Hayes, said he would apply for annulment. "Both Mandela and his new wife are in contempt of court. They ignored a court order," he told the Sapa news agency. '"Mandla should focus on getting divorced successfully rather than marrying more wives," he said.

At the request of his grandfather, Mandla quit a Johannesburg IT company to take up the Mvezo chieftaincy in 2007. The move restored to the family a title which had been stripped by a colonial magistrate in humiliating circumstances in 1918.

In his autobiography, A Long Walk To Freedom, Nelson Mandela describes how his father refused to obey a summons to appear before the white magistrate over the issue of a missing ox. He refers to his father's clash with the magistrate – which led to the family being dispossessed and forced to move to nearby Qunu – as proof of "a stubborn sense of fairness that I recognise in myself'".

Mandla is one of 266 chiefs heading the 2.6-million-strong Thembu branch of the Xhosa nation. After the 2009 election, he was made an MP and, although inexperienced, immediately appointed to the parliamentary committee for rural development and land reform.

But Mandla – whose father Makgatho died from Aids complications in 2005 – has made more of an impact in matrimonial disputes than in parliament. Last week, a sheriff seized assets of his worth 100 000 Rands (£7,800) after he failed to pay maintenance to Mrs Mabunu-Mandela pending their divorce. Mandla says his estranged wife is intentionally delaying the divorce, which has been under discussion since 2009.

Polygamy is recognised in South Africa. President Zuma, a Zulu, has five wives, who all receive maintenance from the state. But experts say the law is clear – a man cannot be polygamous and monogamous at the same time. Rhodes University Professor Richman Mqeke said: "If the first marriage is civil, as it was in Mandla's case, he cannot have another marriage. A civil marriage is by its nature monogamous. He cannot get married again before getting divorced."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

The Grange Retirement Home: Full Time Care Team Manager

£22,400: The Grange Retirement Home: This is a key role which requires a sound...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45K YR1: SThree: At SThree, we like to be dif...

Guru Careers: Software Developer / Web Developer

£30 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Software / Web Developer (PHP / MYSQL) i...

Guru Careers: Account Executive

£18 - 20k + Benefits: Guru Careers: An Account Executive is needed to join one...

Day In a Page

Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor
The ZX Spectrum has been crowd-funded back into play - with some 21st-century tweaks

The ZX Spectrum is back

The ZX Spectrum was the original - and for some players, still the best. David Crookes meets the fans who've kept the games' flames lit
Grace of Monaco film panned: even the screenwriter pours scorn on biopic starring Nicole Kidman

Even the screenwriter pours scorn on Grace of Monaco biopic

The critics had a field day after last year's premiere, but the savaging goes on
Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people used to believe about periods

Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people once had about periods

If one was missed, vomiting blood was seen as a viable alternative
The best work perks: From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)

The quirks of work perks

From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)
Is bridge the latest twee pastime to get hip?

Is bridge becoming hip?

The number of young players has trebled in the past year. Gillian Orr discovers if this old game has new tricks
Long author-lists on research papers are threatening the academic work system

The rise of 'hyperauthorship'

Now that academic papers are written by thousands (yes, thousands) of contributors, it's getting hard to tell workers from shirkers
The rise of Lego Clubs: How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships

The rise of Lego Clubs

How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships
5 best running glasses

On your marks: 5 best running glasses

Whether you’re pounding pavements, parks or hill passes, keep your eyes protected in all weathers
Joe Root: 'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

Joe Root says the England dressing room is a happy place again – and Stokes is the catalyst
Raif Badawi: Wife pleads for fresh EU help as Saudi blogger's health worsens

Please save my husband

As the health of blogger Raif Badawi worsens in prison, his wife urges EU governments to put pressure on the Saudi Arabian royal family to allow her husband to join his family in Canada