Why is Rhodes University really funding the ‘indigent’ Mandelas?

Indigent Mandelas
Indigent Mandelas and a security guard

The Sunday Times revealed recently that the Rhodes University law clinic provided funding to Makaziwe Mandela and 15 other members of the Mandela clan to engage in a public spat about their inheritance.

The funding helped an order forcing Mandla Mandela to move the remains of three of Nelson Mandela’s children from Mvezo Great Place to Qunu which the Eastern Cape High Court in Mthatha issued.

The university is standing by its law clinic’s decision to fund 16 members of the Mandela family, who apparently qualified for aid as indigents.

Part of the reason for the clinic’s decision, the university said on Tuesday, was because Mandla Mandela appeared to be silencing the voices of women in the Mandela family.

This meant that the case fell within the clinic’s mandate to pursue cases that “impact on the human rights and socio-economic conditions of disadvantaged communities”. The university says Hayes was acting in accordance with this “strategic objective”.

Their instructing attorney in that court application was Wesley Hayes, who is also a the deputy director of the law clinic. Hayes was previously known to the Mandela family.

Also on Sunday, Mandla Mandela visited his grandfather in hospital in Pretoria, declaring afterwards that Nelson Mandela’s health was improving. Makaziwe’s laywer earlier described Mandela’s state as “vegetative”.

He said he had asked his lawyers to write to the Rhodes vice-chancellor Saleem Badat to discuss the reasons why the law clinic saw fit to provide the funding.

An objective of the Rhodes University Law Clinic is to provide free legal advice and services to people who are deemed to be indigent.

Critics say there is no logic in the university’s stance that “a number” of the Mandela applicants were indigent.

“This is the Mandela family we are talking about. How does a Mandela family member become indigent?” said Mandla’s laywer Pilusa.

He said Mandla Mandela suspected the university had an alternative agenda in funding his aunt and others’ court application “that would force them [the clinic] to depart from the normal procedure, which looks at real indigent families”.

“Even the reasons given, that one or two of the Mandelas are indigent, doesn’t make any sense. It’s really a very odd situation,” said Pilusa. – M&G