Remembering Zindzi Mandela: 1960 - 2020

Iziko Museums of South Africa

It is with a heavy heart that we mourn the passing in Johannesburg early on Monday, 13 July of Nelson Mandela and Winnie Madikizela-Mandela’s youngest daughter, Zindziswa Nobutho Mandela. She was 59.

 

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Born on 23 December 1960 in Soweto, Johannesburg, Ms Mandela – affectionately known as Zindzi – was just 18 months old when her father was arrested and convicted of sabotage and treason. She was three years old when Mandela was sentenced to life in prison on Robben Island. Deprived of her father by the apartheid state, Ms Mandela was raised by her mother – who, in 1977, was banished by the apartheid government to Brandfort, 400kms outside of Johannesburg. 

Later, Ms Mandela attended a boarding school in neighbouring Swaziland, and graduated in 1985 from the University of Cape Town with a bachelor’s degree in Law. 1985 also saw Ms Mandela become her father’s emissary – reading his letter of refusal, directed at the then Prime Minister of South Africa, PW Botha, in relation to his early conditional release.

Ms Mandela found her own voice as an activist and poet, becoming a leader in her own right and spending many years involved in the liberation struggle, and embracing roles in the arts, philanthropy and business. A member of the Free Mandela campaign, Ms Mandela was recruited as an underground operative of uMkhonto we Sizwe (MK) – the armed wing of the African National Congress; also serving as Deputy President of the Soweto Youth Congress and in the MK Veterans’ Association. Her anthology of poetry, titled Black as I am, was published in 1978 and provided insight into Ms Mandela’s perspective of life under apartheid.  

During the course of the country’s developing democracy, Ms Mandela continued to campaign for the voiceless, calling government to account and responding to the injustice of non-service delivery.  She was currently serving as South Africa’s Ambassador to Denmark, and had been designated to become South Africa’s Head of Mission in Monrovia, Liberia. 

Ms Mandela is survived by her four adult children: Zoleka Mandela, Zondwa Mandela, Bambatha Mandela, and Zwelabo Mandela. Ms Mandela’s elder sister, Princess Zenani Dlamini, serves as South Africa’s ambassador to South Korea. 

Iziko Museums of South Africa extends our sincerest condolences to Ms Mandela’s immediate family, the Mandela family at large, and her friends and colleagues. She will be greatly missed by all who knew and loved her.