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Would you write your high school into your will? Mandela did

The late, great leader left money to his schools, his staff and his political party.

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — Nelson Mandela’s last will and testament reads like a journey through the former South African president’s remarkable life.

Much of his estate, worth an estimated $4.1 million, was bequeathed to his large and fractious family. But Mandela’s will — released Monday, two months after his death — also touchingly recognizes the schools that educated him, the political party he devoted his life to and the staff that took care of him after his release from prison.

Among them are chef Xoliswa Ndoyiya, who cooked traditional favorites for the Mandela family for more than 20 years, and Zelda Le Grange, his longtime personal assistant. He left them and seven other staff members around $4,500 each.

Mandela gave $9,000 for bursaries and scholarships at each of six schools, four of which he attended in the 1930s and 40s. The other two are high schools in Qunu village, where he grew up, and in Soweto, where he lived as a young man.

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He bequeathed a portion of royalties from a family trust to his beloved African National Congress, his political party, to be used to promote ANC policies and principles of reconciliation among South Africans.

What will the heirs say?

But the big question is what his children and grandchildren will make of the will, given previous nasty family fights over Mandela’s legacy and public disputes over who will inherit his trust funds.

His daughters Makaziwe and Zenani dropped a court action last year to take control of a family trust that includes royalties from artworks featuring Mandela’s handprint. More recently, Makaziwe, the eldest daughter, has been at loggerheads with eldest grandson Mandla over who is the head of the family. The squabble has leaked out into the press. Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, Mandela’s ex-wife, weighed in with a statement in December declaring Makaziwe to be the family’s new leader.

In a rare moment of unity, virtually the entire Mandela family was present at their patriarch’s home in the Houghton area of Johannesburg Monday morning for the reading of the will.

Dikgang Moseneke, one of three executors and deputy chief justice of South Africa’s Constitutional Court, said the reading went well. “Reading wills are always occasions charged with emotion,” Moseneke told journalists at a briefing that followed the private family gathering.

An interesting read

An executive summary of Mandela’s will has been released to media. But in the full, 40-page will, which will be made public, Mandela explains the “rational and emotional grounds” for his bequests, Moseneke said, adding that it is an “interesting read.”

Mandela’s third wife, Graca Machel, is entitled to half of his estate under South African law. But it has been suggested that she will probably waive her rights and instead receive properties in her native Mozambique and other assets.

Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, was not mentioned in the will’s executive summary. The couple divorced in 1996. During Mandela’s long illness, however, Madikizela-Mandela was often by his bedside along with Machel. She also had a prominent place at memorial events held after his death.

Each of Mandela’s surviving children, and some of his grandchildren, received $300,000. He also left $300,000 to each of his stepchildren through Machel, whose late first husband was the former Mozambican President Samora Machel.

‘It is my wish’

A family trust will provide for his children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. The home in Houghton, where Mandela died in December, will be used by family of his deceased son Makgatho.

“It is my wish that it should also serve as a place of gathering of the Mandela family in order to maintain its unity long after my death,” the late leader wrote.

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Moseneke wisely made a point of noting that the will’s executors would not be involved in issues of customary law, in particular with regards to matters of status and succession within the Mandela family.

The squabbling among Mandela’s children and grandchildren in the past year has caused much public derision in South Africa, and it remains to be seen whether the will’s contents will be contested.

Moseneke said he wasn’t aware of any current legal challenges to the will. But then again, any challengers still have 90 days in which to file a suit.