Mandela's cousin dies


President Jacob Zuma has conveyed his condolences to former president Nelson Mandela on the death of his cousin and childhood playmate, the presidency said on Wednesday.

Sitsheketshe Morris Mandela died at the age of 80 in the Nelson Mandela Academic Hospital, in Mthatha, at 6am Wednesday morning, of lung cancer, said Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory spokesman Sello Hatang. He had been admitted to the hospital on Friday.

Hatang said Sitsheketshe's mother and Mandela's mother were sisters.

Sitsheketshe's mother died giving birth to him on June 24, 1932, and he grew up with Mandela in the same household, he said.

Sitsheketshe recalled his childhood with Mandela in Qunu, in the Eastern Cape, in Anna Trapido's book "Hunger for Freedom: The Story of Food in the life of Nelson Mandela".

"We boys had everything we needed from the cattle and fields," he was quoted as saying.

"I was younger than him [Mandela] so [he] used to send me out to collect the cattle and then he used to milk the cattle himself, and also take corn and grind it with a stone and we would eat it with amasi (sour milk)."

Sitsheketshe continued: "We seldom bought anything edible but we lacked for nothing."

The centre sent its condolences to the Mandela family.

Details of Sitsheketshe's burial were yet to be announced.

The African National Congress and its youth league also sent its condolences to the Mandela family.

"The ANC believes that Sitsheketshe Mandela was a significant part of the Mandela family and played a crucial role in the affairs of the family and that his departure will leave behind him a void that nobody will fill," spokesman Jackson Mthembu said.

In a statement he said in his own unique way Sitsheketshe made a lasting contribution to South Africa.

"During this moment of need, the ANC wants to re-assure the Mandela family of our support and condolences. May his soul rest in peace."

In a statement the ANCYL said it was deeply saddened by the loss in a family which held substantial wisdom and history of the ANC, and has made such a vast contribution to the landscape of struggle and political freedom.

"Tata Morris Mandela has held the fort for the family in Qunu, especially during the difficult times of Madiba's ill health among other family matters, of which he has remained central."

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