JOHANNESBURG (AP) — Nelson Mandela‘s family has come under new scrutiny after a South African university law clinic said it gave free legal aid to a group of the former president’s relatives on the grounds that some are poor.
The revelation was met with skepticism in South Africa where poverty is endemic and a number of commentators have questioned whether a clinic that is supposed to help the needy was instead seeking benefits from association with the high-profile family.
Many South Africans were already troubled by the Mandela family feud, which has coincided with the long illness of the 95-year-old anti-apartheid leader. Mandela was taken to a hospital on June 8 to be treated for a lung infection; the government says he is improving but remains in critical condition.
Mandela’s family members went to court against a grandson of Mandela who exhumed the anti-apartheid leader’s three deceased children from Mandela’s hometown, Qunu, and reburied them in nearby Mvezo. The group won the case with help from the Rhodes University Law Clinic and the bodies were reburied in their original location.
The grandson, Mandla Mandela, is the oldest male Mandela heir and a tribal chief in Mvezo, where his grandfather was born.
Rhodes University said it became involved when the Mandela family urgently requested help from Wesley Hayes, a deputy director of the law clinic who was “previously known” to the family.
Among four family members deemed by the law clinic to be indigent and therefore deserving of aid are 22-year-old Mbuso and 20-year-old Andile, younger brothers of Mandla.
They were aligned in the case with a dozen other relatives including Mandela’s three surviving daughters, one of whom is South Africa’s ambassador in Argentina, and Graca Machel, Mandela’s wife and a former first lady of Mozambique.