Mandela endured long history of heartache

2013-12-06 07:43
(Picture: AFP)

(Picture: AFP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Johannesburg - Nelson Mandela, who was separated from his family by nearly three decades in an apartheid prison, endured a long history of heartache in his private life.

His last high-profile heartache came when his great-granddaughter died in a car crash on the eve of the 2010 World Cup, Africa's first, an event Mandela was instrumental in bringing to the country.

Thirteen-year-old Zenani Mandela was a favourite of Mandela's and was chosen to carry the Confederations Cup trophy onto the podium at the final at Johannesburg's Ellis Park in June 2009.

Her death was the latest in a long line of family tragedies for the world's best-loved statesman who witnessed the loss of three of his children and two broken marriages.

Mandela, who died on Thursday aged 95, was plunged into mourning during his first marriage to Evelyn Ntoko Mase, when their baby daughter Makaziwe died at just nine months in 1947.

The couple's oldest son, Madiba Thembekile, was then killed in a car accident in 1969, while Mandela was in prison on Robben Island.

At the time he was serving a life sentence for his role in creating the armed wing of the African National Congress, and the apartheid authorities refused to allow him to attend the funeral.

He was also barred from attending his mother's funeral the previous year.

Political struggle

In his first memoir, "Long Walk to Freedom", Mandela wrote of the pain he felt at missing the funerals and his guilt at putting the political struggle before his family.

"Had I made the right choice in putting the people's welfare even before that of my own family?" he asked.

"In South Africa it is hard for a man to ignore the needs of the people, even at the expense of his own family," he said.

"But that did not lessen the sadness I felt."

Mandela's other son with Mase, Makgatho Lewanika Mandela, died of an Aids-related illness in 2005.

He spoke openly about the cause of his son's death, becoming one of the first public figures to break the taboo around the AIDS epidemic that had engulfed South Africa on its way to becoming the world's worst-affected country.

"Let us give publicity to HIV/Aids and not hide it, because the only way of making it appear to be a normal illness... is always to come out and say somebody has died because of HIV," he said.

Mandela's marriage to Mase ended in divorce in 1958. He married Winnie Madikizela-Mandela in June the same year, but that marriage also ended unhappily.

Long imprisonment

After surviving Mandela's long imprisonment, the couple separated two years after his release in 1990, and divorced in 1996 during Mandela's term as South Africa's first democratically-elected president.

Winnie had surrounded herself with a band of thugs christened the Mandela United Football Club who murdered a young activist called Stompie Sepei.

He stood by her when she was convicted for kidnapping Sepei and only in 1992 announced their separation.

Winnie's six-year sentence was suspended on appeal and in 1994 she was made a deputy minister in his government, but was later sacked for insubordination.

She was elected to parliament in 2009, and she remains a prominent political voice.

Mandela remarried again in 1998, to Graca Machel, who is herself no stranger to tragedy. Her first husband, Mozambican president Samora Machel, was killed in a mystery air crash in northern South Africa in 1986.

- Share your memories of Nelson Mandela with us.

Read more on:    nelson mandela  |  winnie mandela  |  graca machel

Read News24’s Comments Policy publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining

Inside News24


DA wants to empower fishing communities - Zille

DA leader Helen Zille says the party has a plan for harbours and small-scale fishing communities.


Latest elections multimedia

Why Jack Parow wants you to vote on 7 May
The ad the SABC doesn't want to air
Elections 2014 in one cartoon
This year's election posters
  • Thursday Sir Lowry's Pass - 05:35 AM
    Road name: Old Sir Lowrys Pass Road
    TRAFFIC LIGHTS not working at Bezweni Road
  • Thursday Cape Town - 05:35 AM
    Road name: Buitengracht Street
    TRAFFIC LIGHTS not working at Waterkant Street
More traffic reports...

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Escape winter, head to Mauritius

Escape winter by spending 7 nights in Mauritius' tropical bliss from R13 215 per person sharing. Includes return flights, airport transfers and accommodation. Book now! - shop online today

Get many eggs in one basket!

Gaming bundles: 2 Super Hits games for R99, 3 Disney games for R99 and more + exclusive accessory bundles only available on While stocks last. Shop now!

25% off bestselling books!

The Real Meal Revolution by Tim Noakes, Jeffrey Archer’s Be Careful What You Wish for, Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor E. Frank and many more titles. Shop now!

Up to 25% off electronics

Buy top electronics and save up to 25%. Such as’s 1# selling product the gobii eReader, Patriot X Porter flash drive, Asus Nexus 7” 3G tablet, Samsung Galaxy SIII, Lenovo G580 Notebook and many more. Shop now!

DStv HD PVR Decoder now R949

The DStv HD PVR Decoder has further revolutionised the television experience with lifelike viewing, sharper images, more vibrant colours and precision picture quality. Now R949, save R550. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Up to 30% off appliances & homeware

Save up to 30% on appliances and homeware this Easter! Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now.

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

BlackBerry Curve 8520

Wi-Fi enabled With the BlackBerry Curve 8520 connect to your home...

From R1100.00

I'm shopping for:


You may find yourself putting in that extra effort on looking good and making an impression. more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.