JOHANNESBURG - Nelson Mandela's ex-wife Winnie Madikizela-Mandela has launched a legal claim to the former South African leader's rural home, local media reported on Tuesday.
Her lawyers said in a letter quoted by the Daily Dispatch newspaper that since the house in Qunu was bought while the two were still married, traditional custom dictated it should be inherited by Madikizela-Mandela and their children.
"This position becomes applicable irrespective of whether the wife was divorced or not," lawyer Mvuyo Notyesi wrote in the letter dated July 18 -- the late leader's birthday which is celebrated internationally as Mandela Day.
"In fact, the property in question was obtained by Mrs Madikizela-Mandela whilst the husband was in prison."
Madikizela-Mandela was divorced from the Nobel peace laureate in 1996 and was not named in his will.
Winnie and the late Nelson Mandela during their visit to Uganda
Mandela spent 27 years in apartheid jails before becoming South Africa's first black president in the post-apartheid elections of 1994.
"The view we hold is that the... property belongs to the generation of Mr Nelson Mandela and Mrs Winnie Madikizela-Mandela as their common and parental home," said Notyesi.
Mandela's $4.3-million (3.2-million-euro) estate was released in February, two months after his death, and left his assets to various family members, personal staff, schools and the ruling African National Congress party.
His third wife Graca Machel received four properties in her native Mozambique as well as cars, art work, and jewellery -- many of which were her own assets that she brought to their marriage.
Mandela married Machel, the widow of Mozambique president Samora Machel, in 1998.
In the will, Mandela left his property in Qunu to the family trust "for the benefit of the Mandela family and my third wife and her two children".
The lawyers' letter said Madikizela-Mandela's legal bid was neither attacking nor contesting the will but was "only asserting the traditional and customary rights on what may be contentious in the future".
Winnie launches legal claim to Mandela''s home