Rhodes explains legal aid for Mandelas

Rhodes University said some members of the Mandela family qualified for assistance.

FILE: Mandela family advocate David Smith. Picture: Rahima Essop/EWN

JOHANNESBURG - Rhodes University on Tuesday said it provided legal aid to 16 members of the Mandela family because some people qualified for assistance.

The legal battle was centred on grave sites.

The family members were granted legal aid in their battle against Nelson Mandela's eldest grandson, Mandla, to have the remains of two of the former president's children and his father returned from Mvezo to Qunu.

While many in the family hold powerful positions in business and politics, the university says four members passed a test making them eligible for funding.

The Grahamstown-based institution then decided to represent all 16 members in the case.

Rhodes University Special Projects Director Susan Smailes said the case qualified under their policy to help previously disadvantaged people.

"This falls within our strategic plan, which is matters involving socio-economic conditions. The ancestral home of the Mandela family is in Qunu, which is a disadvantaged, rural community."

An AFP report on Monday quoted Smailes as saying the university established that some members of the group were "indigent".

But Mandla's spokesman maintains it's absurd to suggest his relatives couldn't afford the bills.

Smailes told _AFP _the decision was also partly related to Mandla's silencing of women in the family.

The university says Mandla made no attempt to contact Vice-Chancellor Saleem Badat or to set up a meeting to discuss the decision.

The disputed remains belonged to Madiba's father Makgatho Mandela, who died in 2005, his first daughter, Makaziwe, who died as an infant in 1948 and his second son, Madiba Thembekile, who died in a car accident in 1969.

The remains have since been re-exhumed and returned to Qunu after Mandla lost the court case.