Zoleka Mandela, the granddaughter of Nelson Mandela, South Africa’s first democratically elected President, passed away at the age of 43 due to cancer. Zoleka battled metastatic cancer affecting her hip, liver, lung, pelvis, brain, and spinal cord. Surrounded by loved ones, she departed on the evening of September 25.The funeral service was held at Bryanston Methodist Church on Friday, September 29.
Zoleka gained recognition for openly sharing her journey through cancer treatment and addressing her struggles with drug addiction, depression, and childhood sexual abuse. Her advocacy extended to raising awareness about cancer prevention and combating the stigma surrounding the disease.
The Nelson Mandela Foundation praised her inspirational work, highlighting her efforts to promote road safety after losing her 13-year-old daughter in a car accident in 2010. Zoleka, the granddaughter of Winnie Mandela, Nelson Mandela’s second wife, also faced the loss of a prematurely born son. She leaves behind four surviving children.
Zoleka’s relationship with Nelson Mandela was one that of love, respect, and a mutual sense of admiration. As his granddaughter, their relationship transcended mere family connections. They exchanged shared experiences, upheld common values, and shared a dedication to improving South Africa. Zoleka frequently reflected on her cherished moments with her grandfather, moments that shaped her perspective on life and provided the fortitude to confront personal challenges.
In her autobiography, “When Hope Whispers,” Zoleka documented her life, including her battle with breast cancer diagnosed at 32. Despite periods of remission, the illness resurfaced last year, affecting her liver, lungs, and other organs. Admitted to the hospital over a week ago after receiving outpatient treatment, she candidly shared her fears and reflections on social media. Tributes from around the world poured in on social media platforms, with people acknowledging her bravery, honesty, and the impact she had on others. Zoleka Mandela’s legacy, shaped by resilience and advocacy, stands as a testament to her strength in facing life’s challenges.
At Zoleka Mandela’s funeral on Friday, a family dispute unfolded as her aunt, Zenani, reportedly prevented her burial next to her grandmother Winnie, mother Zindzi, and daughter Zenani. Contrary to initial reports, Zoleka was not buried alongside her grandmother at the Fourways Memorial Park, as Zenani obtained a court interdict to prevent her burial in the Mandela plot. Zenani reportedly arrived with the police at the funeral to ensure she wasn’t laid to rest next to her family. Zoleka’s mother, Zindziswa Mandela, and her two children rest in the same plot, with her daughter tragically killed in a car accident in 2010, and a son lost to premature birth.
News reports revealed that Zoleka’s ex-husband, Thierry Bashala, had purchased a separate grave for her at the memorial park. Drama unfolded as a grave had already been prepared next to her family, but Bashala resisted, resulting in Zoleka being buried according to her husband’s plans, causing division within the family. A social media post on Friday allegedly listed individuals Zoleka did not want at her funeral, including Bashala, Leeroy Andie Cana, the father of her last born, and various members of the Mandela and Madikizela families.
Zoleka Mandela’s parents are Zindziswa Mandela, the youngest daughter of Nelson Mandela, and Oupa Johannes Mafanyana Seakamela. Although her parents were never formally married, they shared a companionship that endured for a decade, evolving into a lifelong friendship. Zindziswa, affectionately known as “Zindzi,” embodied a harmonious fusion of poetry and politics. Born on December 23, 1960, in Soweto, South Africa, she held the distinction of being the youngest daughter of Nelson Mandela. Navigating her formative years amid the severe challenges of apartheid, Zindzi confronted the harsh realities of pain and separation. Her remarkable resilience shone through as she not only endured but flourished, ultimately emerging as a distinguished diplomat and a profound poet.
Zolekain her social media posts disclosed endearing details about her relationship with her father, who affectionately called her Zozo, while she fondly referred to him as her Pedi King. Her paternal grandfather bestowed upon her the name Makgotso, and her maternal grandfather named her Zobuhle. Zoleka’s father, a teacher and activist, played significant roles in her life, from being the first to provide her with sanitary towels to accompanying her to parties and riding on a motorbike together. He held the distinction of being the first person entrusted with her deepest secret and the first to bail her out. (IPA Service)