A Note on Mandela v Executors, Estate Nelson Mandela 2018 (4) SA 86 (SCA) and the Conundrum around the Customary Marriage between Nelson and Winnie Mandela
The note is about the appeal lodged by the late Mrs Winnie Madikizela-Mandela to the SCA against the decision of the Eastern Cape High Court, Mthatha, dismissing her application for review in 2014. In that application, she sought to have reviewed the decision of the Minister of Land Affairs, to transfer the now extended and renovated Qunu property to Mr Mandela and to register it in his name. Because her application was out of time, she also applied for condonation of her delay in making the application. The court a quo dismissed both applications with costs, holding that there had been an undue delay on her part. Mrs Mandela then approached the Supreme Court of Appeal, for special leave to appeal the decision of the court a quo. Two questions fell for decision by the SCA: whether there was an unreasonable and undue delay on Mrs Mandela’s part in instituting review proceedings; and whether the order for costs was appropriate in the circumstances of the case. The SCA held that there was indeed an unreasonable delay (of seventeen years). Shongwe AP (with Swain, Mathopo JJA, Mokgothloa and Rodgers AJJA concurring) held that the fact that there had been an undue delay does not necessarily mean that an order for costs should, of necessity, particularly where, as in this case, the other litigant is the state. It is the writer’s view that two other ancillary points needed to be raised by counsel and pronounced on by the Court: (a) the lawfulness and regularity of the transfer of the Qunu property to Mr Mandela; and (b) Mrs Mandela’s status as a customary-law widow—in relation to Mr Mandela.