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?
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
Life and Style
food + drink
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas