The youngest daughter of Nelson and Winnie Mandela and South Africa’s ambassador to Denmark, Zindzi Mandela-Hlongwane, passed away in the early hours of Monday at the age of 59. State broadcaster, SABC, reports Zindzi died at a Johannesburg hospital. The cause of her death is yet to be revealed.
Following her parents’ footsteps, Zindzi was also a staunch anti-apartheid activist and actively campaigned against the apartheid government alongside her mother when her father, who later became South Africa’s first Black president, was imprisoned for more than two decades. She was Nelson and Winnie’s second child.
“This is untimely. She still had a role to play in the transformation of our own society and a bigger role to play even in the African National Congress (ANC),” Pule Mabe, ANC spokesman, said.
The country’s Minister of International Relations, Naledi Pandor, also released a statement Monday morning, paying tribute to Zindzi.
“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,” Pandor said in the statement.
The Nelson Mandela Foundation confirmed her death in a brief statement on Monday, saying her memorial and funeral arrangements will be announced in the course of the week. The foundation had earlier shared on Twitter that Mandela’s eldest son, Madiba Thembekile, passed away on the same day in a car accident in 1969.
President Cyril Ramaphosa also offered his condolences, referring to Zindzi as 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,” he said in a statement.
He continued: “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.”
Zindzi is famously remembered for reading her father’s rejection letter during a public meeting in Soweto in 1985 after he was offered a conditional release by then apartheid present, P. W. Botha, while he was imprisoned.
Mandela, who passed away in 2013 at the age of 95, is currently survived by two of his six children. They are Zenani Dlamini, his eldest daughter and Zindzi’s sister, and Pumla Makaziwe Mandela, the daughter he shares with his first wife, Evelyn Mase.
Mandela and Mase married in 1944 and divorced in 1958. He then married Winnie the same year and they divorced in 1996, later tying the knot with Graça Machel in 1998.
Zindzi and Zenani’s mother, Winnie, passed away in 2018 aged 81.