Zindzi Mandela, who was South Africa’s ambassador to Denmark, died on Monday, 13 July at the age of 59. Her cause of death has not been disclosed.
Born on 23 December 1960, she was the youngest daughter of the former statesman, Nelson Mandela and Winnie Madikizela Mandela.
Zindzi Mandela was only 18 months old when her father went to prison. She later attended secondary school in Swaziland, returning to South Africa to study at the University of Cape Town. She graduated in 1985.
That same year, her father was offered a conditional release by then-president PW Botha. She read her father’s rejection of Botha’s offer in front of thousands of people at Jabulani Stadium in Soweto.
February 11 this year marked 30 years since her father was released from prison. She took to Twitter, where she was often vocal about land reform and racial injustices, to reminisce.
“In the euphoria of my Pops’s release, I realised that he would never be my father alone. I often teased him about my seeing more of him when he was behind bars: 2 visits a month, over a weekend guaranteed. Living with him was my incarceration,” Zindzi Mandela tweeted.
In her political career, she served as deputy president of the Soweto Youth Congress, was a member of the Release Mandela Campaign, and was an underground operative of Umkhonto weSizwe.
In more recent years, Zindzi Mandela was posted to Denmark as an ambassador in 2015 and had been designated to become South Africa’s Head of Mission in Monrovia, Liberia.
Her death has sparked widespread reaction.
“I feel paralysed today. My heart is broken.” This, from Nelson Mandela Foundation Chief Executive Sello Hatang on Monday.
In a statement, the foundation expressed shock at the news of her untimely death. “Zindzi was someone we had come to know well and to love. She was our friend,” read the statement.
The statement noted that her death came on the anniversary “of another tragic moment – when Madiba’s son, Thembekile, died in a car accident in 1969”.
In a statement, President Cyril Ramaphosa described Zindzi Mandela as a “household name nationally and internationally, who during our years of struggle, brought home the inhumanity of the apartheid system and the unshakeable resolve of our fight for freedom.
“Her spirit joins Tata Madiba and Mama Winnie in a reunion of leaders to whom we owe our freedom,” said Ramaphosa’s statement.
In a statement released by the Department of International Relations and Cooperation, Minister Naledi Pandor said, “Zindzi will not only be remembered as a daughter of our struggle heroes, Tata Nelson and Mama Winnie Mandela, but as a struggle heroine in her own right. She served South Africa well.”
The EFF posted a tribute on social media, saying the party was saddened by the passing of someone as “fearless and uncompromising” as Zindzi Mandela.
Her political life wasn’t without controversy.
A year ago, while still an ambassador, Zindzi Mandela got into hot water when she tweeted, “Dear apartheid apologists, your time is over. You will not rule again. We do not fear you. Finally #TheLandIsOurs.” In another tweet, she called white people “thieving rapist descendants” of Jan van Riebeeck.
AfriForum and the Freedom Front Plus called for Naledi Pandor to fire Zindzi Mandela, viewing her tweets as racist and divisive. Pandor reprimanded Mandela over the phone and said that she’d breached government’s social media policy.
The EFF stood behind Zindzi Mandela’s tweets. “There is nothing racist by stating the correct fact that white people drove a racist project of land dispossession called colonisation,” said former party spokesperson, Mbuyiseni Ndlozi.
When Zindzi Mandela was told by a Twitter user to stop “flirting” with the EFF, she hit back, saying she “doesn’t flirt with the EFF… I have deep, pure, unconditional love and respect for Julius Malema.”
Zindzi Mandela was first married to Zwelibanzi Hlongwane, with whom she has four children – Zoleka, Zondwa, Bambatha and Zwelabo. In 2013, she married Molapo Motlhajwa. DM