Nelson Mandela did not trust his own children with his financial legacy and placed the money in a fund to stop them fighting over it, friends of the former South African president have claimed.
Mr Mandela feared his children might feel "entitled" because of what they endured during his 27 years in prison, but was adamant they should "carve out their own careers".
The disclosure came as two of Mr Mandela's daughters began a bitter court battle with two of his oldest friends for control of a fund holding €1.17m. In 2005, Mr Mandela placed the money in a trust with several "gatekeepers", empowered to disburse it to his children and grandchildren only if they fell on hard times.
"It was not meant as a general pot, but for specific circumstances," said one friend. "He did not want them to be in need, but he also wanted them to further their education."
Another said the Nobel Laureate had set up the trust to avoid disputes.
"I think he was aware that members of his family might have been trying to get this, maybe they felt entitled," he said. "He didn't trust them. He foresaw disputes."
Two of Mr Mandela's daughters, Makaziwe and Zenani, are suing for control of the trust.
Their targets are two directors of the company that controls it – George Bizos, an 84-year-old lawyer and one of Mr Mandela's oldest friends who defended him in the Rivonia trial of 1963, and Tokyo Sexwale (60) who was a fellow prisoner on Robben Island. The daughters allege that both men have "hijacked" a trust intended for them. With the support of almost all of Mr Mandela's grandchildren, they say Mr Bizos and Mr Sexwale were improperly appointed as trustees and have refused to resign.
But Mr Bizos said he was appointed at Mr Mandela's "explicit" instruction, adding that Makaziwe Mandela wanted to "take over the money, not for any specific purpose, and distribute it to members of the family".
In response, Makaziwe's daughter, Tukwini Mandela, wrote an open letter to Mr Bizos accusing him of "blatant lies and innuendo".
Mr Mandela (94) has been in hospital twice since December. He is no longer believed to be capable of mediating in the dispute.
The impending court battle is the most public airing of the disputes within his family since he divorced his second wife, Winnie, in 1996.
Friends are dismayed. One accused the two daughters of "avarice", adding: "The litigants in this case are people who have no shame. I don't think they realise how much damage they are doing to themselves, because they are destroying the Mandela name.
"People who knew him feel really saddened by this: the Mandela name is not only the family's greatest treasure, it's a national treasure and the family are destroying it."
In another open letter, some of Mr Mandela's grandchildren rejected the suggestion they were "insensitive money-grabbers", writing: "Most of us are employed, work for our own companies and run our own projects." (© Daily Telegraph, London)