Ndaba Mandela: We need to carve our African dream
A Mandela. Yes, the iconic Nelson Mandela’s grandson, Ndaba Mandela, was in town and he seems poised to carry his grandpa’s legacy down to a comma, posture, and humility. The people with him whispered that due to the famous surname, people take Mr Ndaba seriously, and perceive him as unapproachable and thus he has to tone down. But Ndaba, a Nelson Mandela look-alike disarms with a boyish smile and barriers broken people scramble for a piece of Mandela, going for photographs and selfies. At the Kempinski, even Ndaba’s bodyguard is not to be left out and he smiles into the camera, arm on to Ndaba’s shoulder.
So how is he hoping to change the world’s view of Africa? “Through the African Media Campaign. We all know about the American dream, what is the African dream? We need to carve our dream.” The African media campaign is a long-term plan which will include a documentary and a feature film. Starting with Southern Africa countries, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Swaziland, Lesotho and South Africa, the African Rising team will in two years gather content from students to professionals, business people to presidents on how they would like to see Africa five generations from now. Divided “The documentary will feature this content from which we will also create a fictional feature film portraying the African dream,” he says. Inspired by his grandfather who brought independence to South Africa after decades of oppressive white rule, the young Mandela says the problem of Africa today is that we are divided along self-interests and Me agenda. “Look at our forefathers who fought for independence, Kwame Nkrumah, Nelson Mandela, Julius Nyerere, Jomo Kenyatta, they had each other’s backs. For us, a businessman in Nairobi doesn’t know what a businessman in Cape Town is doing.” The leaders, he says are also divided. “See, my grandfather always said of how Muammar Gaddafi helped us in our liberation. But our leaders signed the dotted line of the document that allowed Nato to move in and kill the Liberian leader.” He speaks passionately about gaps in African leadership, and what should be done. Asked whether he would run for political office he smiles and says he participates as a member of the ANC and as the deputy president of the Pan African Youth Council. But how can he resist the pull of politics, having lived almost his life with the most famous politician and president of all time?
Ndaba started living with his grandfather at the age of 11, in 1993, a year before Mandela became president and three years after he left prison where he was incarcerated for 27 years. He remembers a strict disciplinarian, who never accorded them luxuries. They did not have security or private drivers. “Even with grandfather as president, we lived in a private house in Johannesburg. He insisted on good grades, and was particular on being neat and orderly.” But Ndaba and his siblings and cousins, of whom Mandiba writes in the Long Walk to Freedom as giving him great pleasure strived to live a normal life like other kids. “On weekends, we clubbed, I mean nothing dramatic, but having fun like everyone else.” Unpredictable Even so, Ndaba’s life has not been all smooth. Life in his early years was unpredictable that at seven years, he demanded to live with his parents like other children. Born in Soweto in 1982, to Mandela’s second son Makgatho (read Mahato), they soon moved to the Eastern Cape where he stayed with his parents and grandmother, Mandela’s first wife Evelyn Mase. At some point he lived in Durban with Walter Sisulu’s family. Later, he lived with his other grandmother, Winnie Madikizela in the famous Orlando West house now a museum. Ndaba attended Sacred Heart College, a catholic school and later University of Johannesburg and University of Pretoria where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 2009. He has worked at the Japan Embassy as a political consultant focusing on South Africa and also in a bank but retired from employment after two years’ to pursue entrepreneurship and speaking Engagements around the world. Ndaba is a single father of a three-year-old boy, and a nine-month-old girl.