Tando Mabunu-Mandela opened a case with the Bityi police station in the Transkei after her estranged husband (MANDLA MANDELA) defied a court order not to marry a third woman in a traditional ceremony last Saturday.
Already fighting civil charges in the Mthatha High Court, the criminal charge is the latest blow to Mandela - a Member of Parliament - and the provincial ANC leadership has now urged senior members of the Mandela family to intervene and take charge of a situation they fear has spiraled out of control.
It was last year that Mandela went against Mabunu-Mandela's wishes to marry a second wife, French teenager Anais Grimaud.
Though the two have since had a child the marriage was annulled by the court some months later after the presiding officer found that Mandela did not have a right to marry more than one woman because he and Mabunu-Mandela were already married under civil law.
According to the Recognition of Customary Marriages Act "no spouse of a marriage entered into under the Marriage Act of 1991, is, during the sustenance of such marriage, competent to enter into another marriage".
The act further states that a civil marriage and a traditional African marriage could never coexist between a husband and two or more wives.
Mandela and Mabunu-Mandela were married in community of property in 2004. While Mabunu-Mandela filed for divorce just five years later, the two have been at loggerheads regarding ownership of assets ever since - a matter preventing the divorce from going through.
Mabunu-Mandela had brought an urgent application to the court last Tuesday, asking it to interdict her husband from marrying a third woman at Mvezo Great Place on Christmas eve. The application succeeded. But Mandela defied the court order and went ahead with his nuptials to KwaZulu-Natal woman Mbalenhle Makhathini, now known as Nkosikazi Nodiyala Mandela.
While Mabunu-Mandela's attorney, Wesley Hayes, said he would bring an application to the court for Mandela and his new bride to be held in contempt, and that the marriage be annulled, Mabunu-Mandela went a step further on Tuesday evening to bring criminal charges against her husband.
A captain at the Bityi police station yesterday confirmed that a charge of bigamy had been opened against Mandela. He said the matter was still under investigation. No arrests had been made by the time of going to print.
But yesterday provincial ANC spokesman Mlibo Qoboshiyane said the negative publicity surrounding Mandela's marriages could damage his family name.
"It is a family affair, but Mandla is a public figure, so this matter needs to be resolved amicably and as quickly as possible. It is time for senior members in Madiba's family to take charge," Qoboshiyane said.
National Prosecuting Authority spokesman Mthunzi Mhaga said bigamy was an extremely rare charge in South Africa.
"I can't even remember the last time someone was convicted of bigamy. But it is a very serious offence and would need to be investigated properly before further legal action can be taken."
In 2004, Reverend Allan Boesak's son-in-law, Barnard Theyssen, was charged with bigamy. The current status of the case is not clear.
Then, in June last year, businessman Cyril Ramaphosa's brother, Douglas, was charged with bigamy after his wife Ntsoaki had him arrested for marrying someone else while still married to her.