Zindzi Mandela was COVID-19 positive – son

AFRICAN MIRROR REPORTER

Zindziswa “Zindzi” Mandela, the youngest daughter of Nelson Mandela and Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, whose death shocked many South Africans, Africans and many throughout the world, tested positive for COVID-19 before her death.

The confirmation came from her son, Zondwa, in an interview with the South African Broadcasting Corporation. The family is still waiting for an autopsy report which will clarify whether or not Zindzi, who served as South Africa’s ambassador to Denmark, died of a COVID-19 related illness. Zindzi will be laid to rest on Friday after a funeral service that is scheduled to start at 7am.

The first indication of Zindzi’s COVID-19 status was contained in a statement from the Thabo Mbeki Foundation. Part of the statement read: “The immense challenges thrown up by COVID-19 pandemic emphasise the importance of the duty to pick up her fallen spear,” the statement said.

As the family prepares to bury Zindzi, tributes for her have continued to stream in. Celebrated African football legend Didier Drogba, of Ivory Coast, has sent a special message to her passing.

Didier Drogba

Drogba used two broken heart emoji on social media and said: “My comrade, my sister, I can’t believe the news. Rest in heaven”.

The retired football star, who won several awards in Africa and England, where he played for Chelsea, met Zindzi during a visit to South Africa to launch a campaign to raise awareness for road safety. The campaign was launched after Zindzi’s granddaughter and Mandela’s great-granddaughter Zenani (13) was killed in a road accident. Drogba also had a special relationship with Mandela.

Lindiwe Sisulu, South Africa’s Minister of Human Settlements, Waters and Sanitation posted a tribute. “In life I loved you dearly, and in death, big sister loves you still.” Sisulu is daughter of late ANC stalwart Walter Sisulu who was Mandela’s friend and comrade.

Zindzi’s favourite football team, Orlando Pirates, winner of South Africa’s first CAF Club championship, said: “Once a Pirate, always a Pirate. Rest in Peace.”

This is Moussa Faki Mahamat, the chairperson of the Afrian Union Commission’s message: “I join the continent in grief at the passing of Ambassador Zindzi Mandela who I last saw in Soweto at her mother’s home when I came to present my condolences following her death. My prayers go to the late Ma Zindzi’s family, the people and government of South Africa for this painful loss.”

Former South African president Thabo Mbeki said Zindzi’s death has deprived South Africa of an activist for liberation, democracy and “a better life for our people”.

In a statement, Mbeki and the Thabo Mbeki Foundation (TMF) said the media, in covering Zindzi’s death, had correctly reminded everyone of the special contribution Zindzi made in 1985. “Quite correctly and fortunately, the media has made it a point to remind us of the contribution she made further to inspire the struggling masses of our people when she delivered at the Johannesburg Jabulani Theatre in 1985, President Mandela’s message from prison,” the statement said.

Mbeki and the TMF joined South Africans from all walks of life and across the political spectrum have paid warm tributes to Zindziswa “Zindzi” Mandela, who has died, aged 59.

Formal statements were issued and over 23 000 individuals flooded social media platforms to celebrate the life and times of Zindzi, the youngest daughter of the legendary Nelson Mandela and Winnie Madikizela-Mandela.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said he was deeply saddened by the passing of Zindzi.

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.”

The ANC highlighted Zindzi’s achievement and said it honoured her for her personal sacrifices in the struggle to liberate and emancipate the rest of South Africa’s people. “Zindzi expressed her views without fear or favor and a leader in her own name and right,” the ANC said in a statement.

The Nelson Mandela Foundation said Zindzi will be remembered for a rich and extraordinary life, marked by many iconic moments. The NMF recalled the years Zindzi spent banished with her mother,  Madikizela-Mandela, to the small town of Brandfort. The organisation also recalled a summer’s day in February 1985 at Jabulani Stadium when Zindzi read to the world, Mandela’s rejection of apartheid president P.W Botha’s offer of a conditional release from prison. 

“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 NMF said in a statement.

The organisation said Mandela’s personal archive spoke to this strength, as well as to the nature of her relationship with her father. It cited two examples as illustration. The first is a 1969 letter from prison, in which Mandela noted that her “heart is sore because I am not at home and wants to know when I will come back.” The second example is a 1987 letter from Mandela to Zindzi.

In the letter, Mandela told her that he had heard from an acquaintance that she was as strong as a rock. Mandela 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.”

Family friend Bantu Holomisa, who is also leader of the United Democratic Movement said he was shocked by Zindzi’s passing. “She was so like her mom and worked closely with her to make sure that her father and other political prisoners were freed. Our condolences to the family and may her soul rest in peace,” Holomisa said.

South Africa’s Minister of International and Cooperation, Dr. Naledi Pandor expressed shock at the news of the passing away of Zindzi.

Pandor said: “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.”

The Economic Freedom Fighters paid a tribute to Zindzi for supporting her mother during the most difficult times. “It is a fact that many children turned their backs on their parents during the struggle against apartheid. Many more blamed them for always risking their lives by engaging as dangerously as Mama Winnie Mandela did. Moreover, even after apartheid, Zindzi was with Mama Winnie Mandela when the movement they both loved, persecuted her. Her dedication to Mama Winnie Mandela’s truth makes her the quintessential hero behind Mama Winnie Mandela. As a mother and a revolutionary, all she needed was the confidence and support of her own children to become the fierce and indisputable woman she was,” the EFF said in a statement.

Zindzi was the youngest daughter of Mandela and the late Winnie Madikizela-Mandela. She was a political activist in her own right and is recalled for, among other, of the delivery of a powerful speech in 1985 in which her incarcerated father rejected an offer to be released from prison.

Zindzi was born on 23 December 1960 in Soweto. Eighteen months after she was born, her father was arrested for treason and was convicted, sentenced to life and incarcerated at Robben Island.

She spent her childhood and youth with her mother, who was under constant harassment, detention and torture by the apartheid police. 

She went to school in Swaziland, now eSwatini, where she finally finished her secondary education. She graduated with her BA Law degree at the University of Cape Town. It was also the very same year that she read her father’s refusal speech directed at then Prime Minister of South Africa P.W. Botha in relation to his early conditional release.

Zindzi was married twice. From her first marriage to Zwelibanzi Hlongwane she has four children, Zoleka Mandela (1980), Zondwa Mandela (1985), Bambatha Mandela (1989), and Zwelabo Mandela-Hlongwane (1992). 

In 2013 she remarried, this time to former South African National Defence Force member Molapi Motlhajwa. However, their marriage did not last for over a year.

Never one to shy away from controversy, Zindzi’s tenure as a diplomat often had moments during which her comments on social media drew eyebrows.

One of the tweets she posted read, “Dear Apartheid Apologists, your time is over. You will not rule again. We do not fear you. Finally #TheLandIsOurs”. This led to the lobby group AfriForum demanding that she be recalled as the ambassador of South Africa to Denmark. Additionally, several complaints had been submitted at the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) in relation to the social media posts by civilians who argued that her tweets did not reflect the attitude and views that should be held by an ambassador.