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Zindzi Mandela: South Africa’s former first lady, apartheid heroine dies at 59

Achieving Woman
 Zindzi Mandela (Courtesy)

Zindziswa Mandela, the lastborn daughter of South African anti-apartheid hero Nelson Mandela and anti-apartheid activist Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, is dead at 59 years old.

State broadcaster SABC announced on Monday 13th July 2020 that Ms Mandela died at a Johannesburg hospital. However, the cause of her death was not revealed.

More commonly known by her shortened name Zindzi, Ms Mandela was serving as South Africa’s ambassador to Denmark since 2015. The Mandela Legacy Foundation, speaking on behalf of the family, said that the memorial and funeral arrangements for Zindzi would be announced in the course of the week.

The foundation also earlier posted that on the same day in 1969, Zindzi’s brother and Nelson Mandela’s eldest son, Madiba Thembekile Mandela, died in a car crash.

 Zindzi with her father Nelson Mandela in 1995 (Getty Images)

South Africa’s Foreign Affairs Minister Naledi Pandor described Zindzi as heroine.

“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,” Pandor said.

Ms Mandela was born on the 23rd December 1960 and when she was only 18 months old, when her father was arrested and convicted of treason and when she was 3, he was sentenced to life imprisonment on Robben Island. Growing up, she was often left in the care of her older sister Zenani when her mother was sent to prison for her opposition to apartheid. Zindzi and her sister were sent to an Indian school, against apartheid regulations before their parents sent them to boarding school in Swaziland when authorities. She first gained international prominence in 1985 when she made a rousing address in Soweto where she read her father’s rejection letter of an offer for conditional release from prison by then South Africa President PW Botha.

Zindzi was equally a prominent figure is South Africa’s post-apartheid democracy. She served as South Africa’s stand-in First Lady from 1996 to 1998 until her father remarried former Mozambique first lady Graça Machel.

Only two of Nelson Mandela’s children are still alive: Zindzi’s elder sister Zenani Dlamini, and Pumla Makziwe Mandela, a daughter from his first marriage. Zindzi is survived by her husband and four children. 

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