Mandela's children bid to ditch ally from company boards

Nelson Mandela's children have asked a court to remove their father's friend and lawyer George Bizos from the boards of two Mandela-related investment funds, local dailies said Wednesday.

Two daughters of ailing 94-year-old Mandela, Makaziwe and Zenani, filed the papers on Tuesday, two days after the anti-apartheid hero left hospital where he was being treated for pneumonia, the Star and the Sowetan newspapers reported.

They allege that Bizos, a cabinet minister Tokyo Sexwale and Mandela's ex lawyer Bally Chuene forced themselves onto the boards of the two companies worth around $1.7 million.

Bizos is an old personal friend of Mandela and a renowned human rights lawyer who defended Mandela during his 1960s trial for treason.

The children claim that the three were never appointed as shareholders or directors of Harmonieux Investment Holdings and Magnifique Investment Holdings.

The two companies were set up to channel proceeds from the sale of Mandela's iconic handprint for his benefit and those of his children.

The prized handprint, said to have been accidentally created while working on a sketch inspired by his 27-year imprisonment on Robben Island, contains in the centre an image that resembles the African continent.

Makaziwe said in the filing that neither her nor Zenani "in our capacity as directors, or in any other capacity, have ever received any notice to pass a resolution appointing, or have ever appointed" the three people as directors, the Star reported.

She added that the three have ignored a request for them to quit the company.

Bizos fired back by accusing the daughters of trying to "get their hands on things that should not be sold."

"There is no basis to the allegations. We are not hijackers," Bizos told the Star.

"The public should ask themselves why five years later these allegations are being laid. We are confident we were regularly appointed at the wish of Mr Mandela five years ago," he added.

Sexwale, Human Settlements Minister and businessman, who was also cited in the case, told eNCA television that he felt there was something "dodgy" about the court case.

He maintained that the three people in question were appointed trustees by Mandela.

"I still do not know what the quarrel is about. As a colleague and a comrade of Nelson Mandela, if he appoints you, you do the job."

sn/wai/ric