Zindzi Mandela with her beloved father Nelson Mandela. Photo: Nelson Mandela Foundation

The Nelson Mandela Foundation said in a statement on Monday that it had been “shocked to wake to the news of the untimely passing of Zindziswa Mandela. On a day when we are marking the anniversary of another terrible moment – when Madiba’s son Thembekile died in a car accident in 1969. Zindzi was someone we had come to know well and to love. She was our friend.”

Zindzi Mandela
PHOTO: Nelson Mandela Foundation – Zindziswa Mandela

Zindzi’s unexpected death has been reported around the world, and despite no cause of death being disclosed yet, the Daily Mail said: “No cause of death has been released, but South Africa is in middle of a growing wave coronavirus with more than 4,000 deaths.”

On Monday, the Nelson Mandela Foundation said Zindzi, who was SA Ambassador to Denmark, will be remembered for her “rich and extraordinary life, marked by many iconic moments”.

The daughter of giants, Zindzi spent years banished with her mom Winnie Madikizela-Mandela to the small town of Brandfort while her father Nelson Mandela was imprisoned.

In February 1985 at Jabulani Stadium she famously read to the world Madiba’s rejection of President Botha’s offer of a conditional release from prison.

Zindzi Mandela
PHOTO: Nelson Mandela Foundation – Zindzi Mandela

“We will also remember her as a special soul. She worked with the Foundation on many projects over the years, for instance the book Hunger for Freedom, by author Anna Trapido. We valued her generosity, her warmth and her sense of humour. She was always patient in responding to our requests for information and other forms of assistance. And we admired her strength in dealing with life’s challenges and tragedies,” the Foundation said in a statement on its website.

Nelson Mandela Zindzi Mandela
PHOTO: Nelson Mandela Foundation

In a 1969 letter from prison, Madiba noted that Zindzi’s “heart is sore because I am not at home and wants to know when I will come back.”

In a 1987 letter to Zindzi, Madiba told her that he had heard from an acquaintance that she was as strong as a rock. He went on: “That is just the kind of remark a father would like to hear about his beloved child. I literally swelled with pride and satisfaction. That remark reached me at the right time, shortly after you had just gone through a rather harrowing experience.” He ended the letter: “Tons and tons of love darling, and a million kisses.”

Zindzi Mandela, Nelson Mandela
PHOTO: Nelson Mandela Foundation – Zindzi Mandela & Nelson Mandela

Chief Executive Sello Hatang said: “I feel paralysed today. My heart is broken.”

The Foundation said: “We join with many in saying hamba kakuhle to an outstanding South African. We will miss you Zindziswa; you who were named after the daughter of that great South African poet S.E.K. Mqhayi. We will miss you Ambassador Mandela. Lala ngoxolo Madiba, Zondwa, Ngqolomsila, Sophitsho, Yem-yem.”

President Ramaphosa mourns passing of Zindzi Mandela

President Cyril Ramaphosa also extended his sincere condolences to Zindzi’s family, saying she had passed away at 59, in the early hours of Monday, in a Johannesburg hospital.

She was the youngest daughter of the late Nelson Mandela and Nomzamo Winnie Madikizela.

She had been posted to Denmark in 2015 and had been designated to become South Africa’s Head of Mission in Monrovia, Liberia.

President Ramaphosa said: “I offer my deep condolences to the Mandela family as we mourn the passing of a fearless political activist who was a leader in her own right. Our sadness is compounded by this loss being visited upon us just days before the world marks the birthday of the great Nelson Mandela.

“Zindzi Mandela was a household name nationally and internationally, who during our years of struggle brought home the inhumanity of the apartheid system and the unshakeable resolve of our fight for freedom.

“After our liberation she became an icon of the task we began of transforming our society and stepping into spaces and opportunities that had been denied to generations of South Africans. Her spirit joins Tata Madiba and Mama Winnie in a reunion of leaders to whom we owe our freedom,” President Ramaphosa said.

The President also extended his condolences to the late ambassador’s colleagues in the Department of International Relations and Cooperation, and the diplomatic community in South Africa and Denmark.

The late ambassador was raised in Soweto and educated in South Africa as well as in Swaziland. She spent many years involved in the liberation struggle and embraced roles in the arts, philanthropy and business.

In her political career, she served as the Deputy President of the Soweto Youth Congress. She was also a member of the Release Mandela Campaign, and was an underground operative of Umkhonto weSizwe.

Zindzi is the fourth child of Nelson Mandela to have passed away.

Sources include Nelson Mandela Foundation, SAnews.gov.za