The Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) on Friday dismissed an appeal by Winnie Madikizela Mandela, the ex-wife of former president Nelson Mandela, against an earlier court ruling rejecting her claim to his house in the rural village of Qunu in the Eastern Cape.
The court held that the Eastern Cape High Court was correct in dismissing Madikizela Mandela's claim on the basis that it should have been lodged while he was still alive, and that it would severely prejudice his heirs.
The property was ceded to Mandela by the minister of land affairs in 1997, three years after he became South Africa's first democratically elected president.
Mandela died in 2013 and left the house to the Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela Family Trust (the Trust) to administer for the benefit of the Mandela family, his third wife, Graca Machel, and her two children.
Madikizela Mandela launched a legal review in October 2014, challenging the minister's decision to donate the property to her ex-husband. It was dismissed by the high court in 2016 on the basis that too much time had lapsed and therefore the family would suffer prejudice.
"In view of the facts, the SCA agreed with the court a quo that there was an unreasonable delay by the appellant to institute the review proceedings... the SCA held that a reasonable person in the position of the appellant would have asserted a right to ownership of the property before Mr Mandela’s death. It found that the appellant’s delay was prejudicial to Mr Mandela’s estate and heirs because his version of events was not available. It thus refused the application for condonation."
Mandela divorced Madikizela Mandela in 1996, after 38 years of marriage.