Newsmaker – Josina Machel: Graça’s fiercely private daughter

2014-02-09 14:00

When the formalities were over at Josina Machel’s wedding in Maputo in 2002, the bride changed out of her ornate white wedding gown into a sexy black outfit. Then she and her new husband, mining magnate Florival Mucave, took their guests to a local nightclub to party.

During the ceremony earlier in the day, Nelson Mandela sat at the bridal table, beaming. He delivered a short speech in honour of the bride and behaved as though one of his own children had just married.

In a way, this was true. On Monday, Josina and her brother Malengane heard they had inherited R3?million each from Mandela’s estate. Her six stepsiblings, from her late father Samora Machel’s previous relationships, each ­received R100?000.

Radio talk shows were swamped with calls from many who said this was unfair, especially because Mandela’s former wife, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, didn’t get a cent.

While Mandela lay ill for most of last year, Graça Machel was at his bedside – first in the Mediclinic Heart Hospital in Pretoria and then at their home in Houghton. While some of Mandela’s relatives ­engaged in a family feud, Machel’s intensely discreet 38-year-old daughter was her pillar of strength.

Two days after Mandela died, Josina posted a message to her friends on Facebook: “I’d love to thank each and every one of you, my friends, who took the time to comfort me. It’s not easy, but my papa was a man who belonged to mankind?...?so he had to ­return. Blessed are those that lived, shared time and space with Nelson Mandela.”

Josina, her mother’s first-born child, was named after her father’s beloved first wife, Mozambican liberation struggle heroine Josina Muthemba, who died of leukaemia at the age of 25.

Four years later, Samora Machel found solace in the arms of another tough, independent woman.

He and Graça were married in 1975 and had two children – Josina, who was born in 1976; and Malengane, who was born two years later.

Samora Machel fathered six children before marrying Graça and, after his death in a plane crash in 1986, she raised all eight as her own.

Josina was 10 when her father died. With very little money, Graça worked hard to raise all of the children and put them through university. They were told they had to earn what they had, that nothing would be handed to them on a platter.

Just how down-to-earth the family is was evident at several New Year’s Eve parties I enjoyed with ­Mandela and the Machels in Maputo. After a massive family dinner to see the new year in, Madiba would retire to bed early and the others would party the night away.

Josina and her siblings are determinedly private and little is known about them. They make no headlines.

Olivia, Graça’s stepdaughter who is in her 50s, told me at Josina’s wedding she and her siblings were raised to be ordinary men and women. ­Ordinary and discreet.

Josina and Mucave share a vast home in Houghton – the same suburb in which her mother and Madiba lived – complete with a library that houses an extensive collection of old books. She has two young children, an elder daughter and younger son, who attend private schools.

Trying to talk to Josina after the reading of the will on Monday was impossible. She maintained a determined silence. But I do have little doubt she and her siblings did not expect to benefit from it.

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