Nelson Mandela: His women, Children, Grandkids

Published:7 Dec, 2013

Nelson Mandela was a lady’s man. And before his death, he married three, the last at an advanced age. Many believe he married his last wife Graca Mitchel, his late friend’s wife, only for companionship.

He fathered six children, twenty grandchildren, and a several great-grandchildren.

His first marriage was to a nurse, Evelyn Ntoko Mase who, like Mandela, was from Transkei area of South Africa. They got married in 1944. She was Walter Sisulu’s cousin. They met in Johannesburg. The couple broke up in 1957 after 13 years, divorcing under the multiple strains of his constant absences, devotion to revolutionary agitation, and the fact she was a Jehovah’s Witness, a religion which requires political neutrality. She died in 2004. They had two sons, Madiba Thembekile and Makgatho. Thembekile, who was born in 1946, died in 1969 of a car crash at 23. Mandela was imprisoned on Robben Island at the time and was not allowed to attend the funeral. Makgatho, who was born in 1950, died in 2005 of AIDS. He was 54.

They had their first daughter, Makaziwe in 1947. She died at nine months, and they named their second daughter in her honour in 1953. She is the only surviving of their four children. All their children were educated at the United World College of Waterford, Kamhlaba.

His second wife is the popular Winnie Madikizela-Mandela. She is also from Transkei area. Like his first wife, he met her in Johannesburg, where she was working as the city’s first black social worker. They had two daughters, Zenani (Zeni), born February 4, 1958, and Zindziswa (Zindzi) Mandela-Hlongwane, born 1960. Zindzi was only 18 months old when her father was sent to Robben Island. The marriage ended in separation in April 1992 and divorce in March 1996, largely as a result of political estrangement.

Zenani married Prince Thumbumuzi Dlamini in 1973, elder brother of King Mswati III of Swaziland, while his father was still in prison. One of their sons, Prince Cedza Dlamini, who was born in 1976 and educated in the United States, has followed in his grandfather’s footsteps as an international advocate for human rights and humanitarian aid. In July 2012, Zenani was appointed ambassador to Argentina, becoming the first of Mandela’s three remaining children to enter public life. Zindzi Mandela-Hlongwane made history worldwide when she read out Mandela’s speech refusing his conditional pardon in 1985. She is a businesswoman in South Africa with three children, the eldest of whom is a son, Zondwa Gadaffi Mandela.

His third and last marriage was contracted on his 80th birthday in 1998 to Graça Machel née Simbine, widow of the late Samora Machel, the former Mozambican president and ANC ally killed in an air crash 12 years earlier.

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