JOHANNESBURG (AFP) – Nelson Mandela’s long-time friend and lawyer George Bizos will fight an attempt by the anti-apartheid icon’s daughters to oust him from the board of Mandela companies, his lawyer said Thursday.
Bizos, who defended Mandela in a 1960s treason trial and successfully opposed his death sentence, will reject accusations that he forced his way on the boards of two Mandela investment funds worth an estimated $1.7 million.
Two daughters of ailing 94-year-old Mandela, Makaziwe Mandela and Zenani Mandela-Dlamini, filed papers earlier this week asking a court to remove Bizos, Tokyo Sexwale, a cabinet minister and Mandela’s ex-lawyer Bally Chuene from the boards.
The children claim that the three were never appointed as shareholders or directors of Harmonieux Investment Holdings and Magnifique Investment Holdings.
But the three men argue that Mandela explicitly asked them to help manage that portion of his estate.
“We are instructed to record our clients’ complete rejection of the scurrilous allegations made by the applicants in their papers,” said lawyer Michael Hart.
“Our clients were identified by Mr Mandela and were in due course lawfully appointed as directors of the companies referred to in the application.”
The unseemly row comes just days after 94-year-old Mandela was released from hospital, where he was treated from pneumonia, and has scandalised South Africa.
Mandela’s grandson, Mandla, who is a tribal chief in the village of the anti-apartheid hero’s birth, has distanced himself from the application.
He told The Times newspapers that he was “shocked” to read about his grandfather’s money being discussed in the media.
“This is a family matter that needs to be discussed internally” he said adding that the family must not be perceived as fighting his grandfather’s friend.