Tributes are pouring in following the death of Zindzi Mandela, the daughter of South Africa’s anti-apartheid icons and freedom struggle heroes – Nelson and Winnie Mandela. She died in the early hours of Monday 13th June. She was 59.
South African President, Cyril Ramaphosa led the tributes describing the Zindzi as a “fearless political activist”
“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…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 [18th July] of the great Nelson Mandela.”
According to media reports she died in a Johannesburg hospital. The cause of death has not yet been made public. At the time of her death, Zindzi Mandela, was South Africa’s Ambassador to Denmark. She was due to travel back to duty once COVID-19 enforced travel restrictions had been lifted.
The country’s International Relations Minister Naledi Pandor, expressed her grief and condolences in a statement which described Zindzi as a “struggle heroine in her own right.”
“Zindzi will not only be remembered as a daughter of our struggle heroes, Tata Nelson and Mama Winnie Mandela, but as a struggle heroine in her own right. She served South Africa well…her spirit joins Tata Madiba and Mama Winnie in a reunion of leaders to whom we owe our freedom.”
Followers of South Africa’s painful political history against white minority rule through apartheid, will always remember Zindzi Mandela’s impassioned and historic 1985 “Your freedom and mine cannot be separated”speech on behalf of her father.
In the speech, Nelson Mandela – then serving a life sentence for fighting white rule and supremacy – pointedly rejected a deal for his conditional freedom, offered by the then apartheid president P.W Botha.
One of the ‘freedom’ conditions was that Mandela would agree to denounce his fight against the brutal and lethal apartheid system.
“I am surprised at the conditions that the government wants to impose on me… I cherish my own freedom dearly, but I care even more for your freedom. Too many have died since I went to prison. Too many have suffered for the love of freedom. I owe it to their widows, to their orphans, to their mothers and to their fathers who have grieved and wept for them. Not only I have suffered during these long, lonely, wasted years. I am not less life-loving than you are. But I cannot sell my birthright, nor am I prepared to sell the birthright of the people to be free. I am in prison as the representative of the people and of your organisation, the African National Congress, which was banned.
What freedom am I being offered while the organisation of the people remains banned? What freedom am I being offered when I may be arrested on a pass offence? What freedom am I being offered to live my life as a family with my dear wife who remains in banishment in Brandfort? What freedom am I being offered when I must ask for permission to live in an urban area? What freedom am I being offered when I need a stamp in my pass to seek work? What freedom am I being offered when my very South African citizenship is not respected?. She read to a din of cheers from black south Africans who had gathered at a rally celebrate Archbishop Desmond Tutu Nobel Peace Prize honour.
The historic speech ended with strong words, which, perhaps cemented the young Zindzi’s political activism as she read: “My father says: ‘I cannot and will not give any undertaking at a time when I and you, the people, are not free. Your freedom and mine cannot be separated.”
In her book 491 Days: Prisoner Number 1323/69, Winnie Mandela said of her daughter: “Zindzi was a very troublesome child; she had a very enquiring mind.”
Zindzi, who loved poetry, released a poignant 120-page book of poetry – Black As I Am, in 1985. The poems reveal powerful insights into her childhood, parents and the plight of Black South African under apartheid. The book is accompanied, images by Peter Magubane, the multi prize-winning South African photographer, renown for documenting life in black townships under the dreadful years of apartheid.
Zindzi, a mother of 4, was the younger of the two daughters Nelson Mandela had with Winnie. Growing up in the terrible glare of apartheid South Africa, with her father languishing in prison, while her mother was incessantly targeted, violently attacked by racist police, arrested, imprisoned and enduring solitary confinement, while raising two young girls, palpably had a huge impact on her political awareness and activism. She grew up fearless and outspoken against racial injustices – and she never stopped being so.
Just last year in June, to the chagrin of some, she tweeted: “Dear apartheid apologists, your time is over. You will not rule again. We do not fear you.”
A true giant of Political and social activism in her own way! Hamba Kahle Zindzi!