JOHANNESBURG -- As Nelson Mandela lies in a Pretoria hospital, his family is cashing in on his legacy and fighting over custodianship of his brand and assets worth millions of dollars.
One of his daughters and three of his grandchildren are using the former South African president's name in such pursuits as wine marketing and a reality television show, Being Mandela. His relatives also were embroiled in two lawsuits to secure control over his trust funds and the burial places of the remains of three of his children.
Nobel laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu says the feud is almost like spitting in Mandela's face. Zwelinzima Vavi, general secretary of the country's largest labour union grouping, says there couldn't be a worse insult to his legacy. South African media mock the fuss with cartoons such as one titled Squabble, the Mandela Family Game.
"It's all about money," Keith Gottschalk, a politics lecturer at the University of the Western Cape in Cape Town, said. "Some of Mandela's relatives have tarnished their reputations and shown themselves as being greedy."
Mandela, 94, has been revered as a global icon since he emerged from 27 years in prison to shepherd South Africa from white-minority rule to democracy and served a single term as president following multiracial elections in 1994. After retiring in 1999, he raised tens of millions of dollars for charity. The revenue came from a clothing line called 46664 -- his prison number, commemorative coins, books and concerts.
He has been hospitalized since June 8. President Jacob Zuma's office says he is in critical but stable condition and is responding to treatment for a lung infection. Mandela last made a public appearance in 2010.
Mandela's state pension has been supplemented by revenue from his bestselling 1994 autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom, and charcoal sketches and watercolours he made of Robben Island, where he was imprisoned for 18 years. The pieces of artwork each sold for several thousand dollars, with buyers including talk-show host Oprah Winfrey and retailer Woolworths.
"There are very few people who have not heard of Mandela and almost without exception he is revered," Roger Sinclair, a former marketing professor and consultant to Prophet Brand Strategy, said in an interview from Cape Town. "There is absolutely no doubt that if you take Nelson Mandela's name and image and you put that onto something that you sell, you are able to sell it at a premium. Clearly millions will be made."
Mandela's granddaughters, Zaziwe Dlamini-Manaway and Swati Dlamini, have a clothing line called Long Walk to Freedom. Its website says it brings "a touch of Madiba Magic" to clothing, using Mandela's clan name. They also star in Cozi TV's Being Mandela reality show.
Mandela's daughter, Makaziwe, and her daughter, Tukwini, sell wine under the House of Mandela label, which displays the family tree on its website.
Mandela's relatives deny tarnishing the family name.
"Our grandparents have always said you know this is our name too and we can do what we think is best for the name as long as we treat it with respect and integrity," Swati Dlamini said in a YouTube video clip to promote the reality show.
In April, Makaziwe and her half-sister, Zenani Dlamini, filed a lawsuit seeking to remove their father's lawyers, George Bizos and Bally Chuene, and former Human Settlements Minister Tokyo Sexwale as directors of two companies he set up. The daughters argued they were not properly appointed.
The three denied the allegation, saying Makaziwe and Zenani were acting in bad faith and seeking to access Mandela's money, contrary to his instructions. The former president made it clear to his daughters in 2005 he didn't want them to control his affairs, Chuene wrote in his answering affidavit in the case.
The Mandela family rift may stem from its size and the fact Mandela was absent for much of the time his children and grandchildren were growing up, said Tawana Kupe, deputy vice-chancellor at the University of the Witwatersrand.
Mandela, married three times, has six children, 17 grandchildren and 14 great grandchildren. Evelyn, his first wife, both of his sons, one of his daughters and two of his great-grandchildren have died.
Mandela acknowledged he failed to meet his obligations to his family.
"My commitment to my people, to the millions of South Africans I would never know or meet, was at the expense of the people I knew best and loved most," he wrote in Long Walk to Freedom.
"My family has paid a terrible price, perhaps too dear a price for my commitment."
-- Bloomberg News