Nelson Mandela has been a revered global statesman for
many years, even before he won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993.
But his legacy is at risk of being tarnished. The elderly and
ailing Mr Mandela has been living in Qunu, a small rural
village in South Africa's Eastern Cape province, where he says
he spent the happiest days of his childhood. Although Mr
Mandela retired from public life in 2004, and has rarely been
seen in public since, his name is synonymous with democracy and
the anti-apartheid movement.
Mr Mandela served as South Africa's first black president
from 1994 to 1999 and is regarded by many as the father of
the nation. Jailed for 27 years, he emerged to play a leading
role in the drive for peace in other spheres of conflict. His
charisma, self-deprecating humour and lack of bitterness over
his harsh treatment, as well as his amazing life story,
partly explain his extraordinary appeal.
Since stepping down as president in 1999, Mr Mandela became
South Africa's highest-profile ambassador, campaigning
against HIV/Aids and helping to secure his country's rights
to host the 2010 Football World Cup. Few rugby fans in New
Zealand will forget the sight of Mr Mandela and former Spring
Boks captain Francois Pienaar posing together before the
final of the 1995 Rugby World Cup. Mr Mandela wore the number
six jersey, the same number as worn by Pienaar, who gave the
president credit for the team's win against the All Blacks.
The mere mention of his name sends shivers down the spines of
world leaders, who used to clamour to meet and be
photographed with the inspirational leader.
Mr Mandela recently spent time in hospital, 18 days in fact,
but was released to continue to receive treatment at his home
in Johannesburg until he fully recovers. Now 94, Mr Mandela
has suffered ill health for several years and his recent stay
in hospital is his longest since leaving prison in 1990. He
has been admitted to hospital on three occasions in the past
Behind the scenes, his relatives and colleagues are becoming
increasingly involved in bitter feuds for control of his name
because of the political and economic riches it carries. The
disputes are taking place on many levels, and involve Mr
Mandela's family from his three marriages, the ruling African
National Congress to which he dedicated most of his life, the
various foundations and charities he set up after his
retirement in 1999, as well as political comrades and
business associates with whom he forged relations.
New to the political stage, Mr Mandela's grandson Mandla
Mandela has become influential since his appointment as a
traditional chief in Mr Mandela's birthplace, the village of
Mvezo, and his elevation to Parliament in 2009.
But there are doubts about his rise to prominence, with a
newspaper reporting the South African Broadcasting
Corporation had paid a substantial amount of money to Mandla
for rights to cover Mr Mandela's funeral.
Mandla was also involved in a bitter feud with the Nelson
Mandela Museum over plans to protect Mr Mandela's birthplace
as a heritage site and accused it - along with Mr Mandela's
Aids project, 46664, named after his prison number - of
benefiting and profiting from his grandfather's name. Most
family members boycotted his 90th birthday because of
differences over the celebrations, despite a plea from Mr
With his name now a ''brand'' worth millions, Mr Mandela has
also been involved in a long-running dispute with his former
lawyer, who acted for him when he was in jail on Robben
Island, and a businessman over the sale of artwork bearing
Suspicion lingers that Mr Mandela's family, as well as his
political comrades and business associates, will become
involved in even more acrimonious battles once he dies.
Sadly, age has caught up with Mr Mandela and people are
abusing his name and corrupting his legacy. His contribution
to the world has been such that the name Nelson Mandela must
be remembered with a sense of reverence and also celebration.
The good works he started need to be continued in his name.