Mandla Mandela plans to restore his grandma's house

Mandla Mandela wants to restore his late grandmother's dilapidated house to its former dignified state.

Mandla, the eldest grandson of late former president Nelson Mandela and his first wife, Evelyn Mase, said he would be happy once the house in the main street in Cofimvaba is restored.

The house belonged to Mase, who together with Madiba, had four children – daughters Makaziwe, who died when she was only nine months old, and another named after her late sister, as well as sons Thembekile and Makgatho (Mandla's father).

Mase, a nurse by profession, was married to Madiba from 1944 to 1958. Despite its rich history and heritage, Mase's house is now dilapidated and deserted as no one lives in it.

Fond memories

"The home is very important to us because we have some fond memories there. And that is the main reason that we want to restore it and keep it for family use," Mandla said.

He, however, said there were no plans to turn it into a heritage site or a museum: "It is a private property and it is our house. We will renovate it as we wish to do so."

The Mvezo chief, who is also an ANC MP, could not say when they expected to start with the renovations.

"We still have to work and ensure we raise enough funds to be able to achieve our goal. But we want to keep it as it was. My grandmother was a private person and that is the reason we want to make sure it stays within the family. I will be very happy to see my grandmother's house restored, to uphold her dignity and legacy," Mandla said.

When City Press visited Cofimvaba this week, the house was in a state of disrepair, with paint peeling off from the walls. The corrugated iron roof looked old and ruined.

The big house looked to be one of the few old houses left in the small town's main street, as many have been converted into buildings for businesses. It is not fenced and stray animals could be seen going in and out of the property, which was littered with dirty plastic bags, papers and old car tyres.

Although Mandla said no one stayed at the house, City Press noticed a man running out of it. Two people with businesses close to the property, who did not want to be named, said they feared the place could be a hideout for criminals.

"There are lots of suspicious-looking people going in and out of the properly during the day and even at night. One wonders what they are doing and if they are not involved in some criminal activity. Our businesses are not safe when criminals can have a place to hide right here in the CBD. It would be better if the owners of the property would sell or at least fix and rent it out," said one business owner.