Remarkable People

ID #5264

Nelson Mandela 6 Controversies.

In a New Republic article in December 2006, Mandela was criticised for comments he made about the diamond industry. There were concerns that this would benefit suppliers of blood diamonds. In a letter to Edward Zwick, director of the picture Blood Diamond, Mandela noted that: “...it would be deeply regrettable if the making of the film inadvertently obscured the truth, and, as a result, led the world to believe that an appropriate response might be to cease buying mined diamonds from Africa. ... We hope that the desire to tell a gripping and important real life historical story will not result in the destabilization of African diamond producing countries, and ultimately their peoples”

The New Republic article claims that this comment, as well as various pro-diamond-industry initiatives and statements during his time as a president of South Africa were influenced by his friendship with Harry Oppenheimer, former chairman of De Beers, as well as the “narrow national interest” of South Africa, which is a major diamond producer.

Ismail Ayob was a trusted friend and Mandela’s attorney for over 30 years. Ayob, George Bizos and Wim Trengove were trustees of the Nelson Mandela Trust, which was set up to hold millions of Rands donated by prominent business figures for the benefit of Mandela’s children and grandchildren. Ayob later resigned from the Trust. In 2006, the two remaining trustees launched an application against Ayob for disbursing money without their consent. Ayob claimed that the money was paid to SARS, Mandela's children and grandchildren, Mandela himself and to an accounting company for four years of accounting work.

Bizos and Trengrove refused to ratify payments to the children and grandchildren of Mandela and payments to the accounting firm. A court settlement was reached in which Ayob paid over R700, 000 to the trust. It was alleged that Ayob made defamatory remarks about Mandela in his affidavit, for which Ayob should apologies. It was pointed out that these remarks, which centered on Mandela holding foreign bank accounts had not originated from Ayob's affidavit but from Mandela and Bizos's affidavits.

In 2005 and 2006 Ayob, his wife, and son were verbally attacked by Mandela's advisors. The dispute was reported in the media with Ayob portrayed in a negative light, culminating in action by Mandela to the High Court. There were public meetings at which Mandela’s associates attacked Ayob and called for Ayob and his family to be ostracised. The defense of Ismail and Zamila Ayob included documents signed by Mandela and witnessed by his secretaries, which, they claimed, refuted the allegations.

The dispute again made headlines in February 2007 when, during a hearing in the Johannesburg High Court, Ayob promised to pay R700 000 to Mandela and apologized, although he later claimed that he was the victim of a "vendetta". Some expressed sympathy for Ayob's position, pointing out that Mandela's status made it difficult for Ayob to be treated fairly.

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Last update: 2014-03-30 20:28
Author: Alan McIver
Revision: 1.2

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