Nelson Mandela Obituary from apartheid fighter to president and unifier

Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela Family tree Ahh Dalibhunga Nelson Mandela Obituary from apartheid fighter to president and unifier

Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela Family tree – Ahh Dalibhunga

Nelson Mandela guided South Africa from the shackles of apartheid to multi-racial democracy, as an icon of peace and reconciliation who came to embody the struggle for justice around the world.

Imprisoned for nearly three decades for his fight against white minority rule, Mandela emerged determined to use his prestige and charisma to bring down apartheid while avoiding a civil war.

“The time for the healing of the wounds has come. The moment to bridge the chasms that divide us has come,” Mandela said in his acceptance speech on becoming South Africa’s first black president in 1994.

“We have, at last, achieved our political emancipation.”

In 1993, Mandela was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, an honour he shared with F.W. de Klerk, the white Afrikaner leader who freed him from prison three years earlier and negotiated the end of apartheid.

Mandela went on to play a prominent role on the world stage as an advocate of human dignity in the face of challenges ranging from political repression to AIDS.

He formally left public life in June 2004 before his 86th birthday, telling his adoring countrymen: “Don’t call me. I’ll call you”. But he remained one of the world’s most revered public figures, combining celebrity sparkle with an unwavering message of freedom, respect and human rights.

Whether defending himself at his own treason trial in 1963 or addressing world leaders years later as a greying elder statesman, he radiated an image of moral rectitude expressed in measured tones, often leavened by a mischievous humour.

“He is at the epicentre of our time, ours in South Africa, and yours, wherever you are,” Nadine Gordimer, the South African writer and Nobel Laureate for Literature, once remarked.

Mandela’s years behind bars made him the world’s most celebrated political prisoner and a leader of mythic stature for millions of black South Africans and other oppressed people far beyond his country’s borders.

Charged with capital offences in the 1963 Rivonia Trial, his statement from the dock was his political testimony.

“During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination.

“I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities,” he told the court.

“It is an ideal I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”


Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela was born on July 18, 1918, destined to lead as the son of the chief councillor to the paramount chief of the Thembu people in Transkei.

 Nelson Mandela Obituary from apartheid fighter to president and unifier

Thembu – Mandela Royal Lineage

He chose to devote his life to the fight against white domination. He studied at Fort Hare University, an elite black college, but left in 1940 short of completing his studies and became involved with the African National Congress (ANC), founding its Youth League in 1944 with Oliver Tambo and Walter Sisulu. Mandela worked as a law clerk then became a lawyer who ran one of the few practices that served blacks. In 1952 he and others were charged for violating the Suppression of Communism Act but their nine-month sentence was suspended for two years.

Mandela was among the first to advocate armed resistance to apartheid, going underground in 1961 to form the ANC’s armed wing, Umkhonto weSizwe, or ‘Spear of the Nation’ in Zulu.

He left South Africa and travelled the continent and Europe, studying guerrilla warfare and building support for the ANC.

After his return in 1962, Mandela was arrested and sentenced to five years for incitement and illegally leaving the country. While serving that sentence, he was charged with sabotage and plotting to overthrow the government along with other anti-apartheid leaders in the Rivonia Trial.

Branded a terrorist by his enemies, Mandela was sentenced to life imprisonment in 1964, isolated from millions of his countrymen as they suffered oppression, violence and forced resettlement under the apartheid regime of racial segregation.

He was incarcerated on Robben Island, a penal colony off Cape Town, where he would spend the next 18 years before being moved to mainland prisons.

He was behind bars when an uprising broke out in the huge township of Soweto in 1976 and when others erupted in violence in the 1980s. But when the regime realised it was time to negotiate, it was Mandela to whom it turned.

In his later years in prison, he met President P.W. Botha and his successor de Klerk.

When he was released on Feb. 11, 1990, walking away from the Victor Verster prison hand-in-hand with his wife Winnie, the event was watched live by television viewers across the world.

“As I finally walked through those gates … I felt even at the age of 71 that my life was beginning anew. My 10,000 days of imprisonment were at last over,” Mandela wrote of that day.


In the next four years, thousands of people died in political violence. Most were blacks killed in fighting between ANC supporters and Zulus loyal to Mangosuthu Buthelezi’s Inkatha Freedom Party, although right-wing whites also staged violent actions to upset the moves towards democracy.

Mandela rest in peace1 Nelson Mandela Obituary from apartheid fighter to president and unifierMandela prevented a racial explosion after the murder of popular Communist Party leader Chris Hani by a white assassin in 1993, appealing for calm in a national television address. That same year, he and de Klerk were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

Talks between the ANC and the government began in 1991, leading to South Africa’s first all-race elections on April 27, 1994.

The run-up to the vote was marred by fighting, including gun battles in Johannesburg townships and virtual war in the Zulu stronghold of KwaZulu Natal.

But Mandela campaigned across the country, enthralling adoring crowds of blacks and wooing whites with assurances that there was a place for them in the new South Africa.

The election result was never in doubt and his inauguration in Pretoria on May 10, 1994, was a celebration of a peoples’ freedom.

Mandela made reconciliation the theme of his presidency. He took tea with his former jailers and won over many whites when he donned the jersey of South Africa’s national rugby team – once a symbol of white supremacy – at the final of the World Cup in 1995 at Johannesburg’s Ellis Park stadium.

The hallmark of Mandela’s mission was the Truth and Reconciliation Commission which investigated apartheid crimes on both sides and tried to heal the wounds. It also provided a model for other countries torn by civil strife.

In 1999, Mandela, often criticised for having a woolly grasp of economics, handed over to younger leaders – a voluntary departure from power cited as an example to long-ruling African leaders.

A restful retirement was not on the cards as Mandela shifted his energies to fighting South Africa’s AIDS crisis.

He spoke against the stigma surrounding the infection, while successor Thabo Mbeki was accused of failing to comprehend the extent of the crisis.

The fight became personal in early 2005 when Mandela lost his only surviving son to the disease.

But the stress of his long struggle contributed to the break-up of his marriage to equally fierce anti-apartheid campaigner Winnie.

The country shared the pain of their divorce in 1996 before watching his courtship of Graca Machel, widow of Mozambican President Samora Machel, whom he married on his 80th birthday in 1998.

A man wearing a traditional garment with Nelson Mandelas portrait outside parliament in Cape Town Masixole Feni AFP Nelson Mandela Obituary from apartheid fighter to president and unifierFriends adored “Madiba”, the clan name by which he is known. People lauded his humanity, kindness, attention and dignity.

Unable to shake the habits of prison, Mandela rose daily between 4 a.m. and 5 a.m. to exercise and read. He drank little and was a fervent anti-smoker.

An amateur boxer in his younger days, Mandela often said the discipline and tactics drawn from training helped him to endure prison and the political battles after his release.


But prison and old age took their toll on his health.

Mandela was treated in the 1980s for tuberculosis and later required an operation to repair damage to his eyes as well as treatment for prostate cancer in 2001. His spirit, however, remained strong.

“If cancer wins I will still be the better winner,” he told reporters in September of that year. “When I go to the next world, the first thing I will do is look for an ANC office to renew my membership.”

Most South Africans are proud of their post-apartheid multi-racial ‘Rainbow Nation’.

But Mandela’s legacy of tolerance and reconciliation has been threatened in recent years by squabbling between factions in the ANC and social tensions in a country that, despite its political liberation, still suffers great inequalities.

Mandela’s last major appearance on the global stage came in 2010 when he donned a fur cap in the South African winter and rode on a golf cart, waving to an exuberant crowd of 90,000 at the soccer World Cup final, one of the biggest events in the country’s post-apartheid history.

“I leave it to the public to decide how they should remember me,” he said on South African television before his retirement.

“But I should like to be remembered as an ordinary South African who together with others has made his humble contribution.”

Ahh! Dalibhunga!!! Lala Ngoxolo Madiba – Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela

in traditional Xhosa clothing at the wedding of Princess Nandi of KwaZulu December 7 2002 to Prince Mfundo Bovulengwe Mtirara the great grand nephew of Mandela 1 713x1024 Ahh! Dalibhunga!!! Lala Ngoxolo Madiba   Nelson Rolihlahla MandelaThe late former president & South Africa’s first black president and father of a democratic nation Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, born to the Thembu Royal family and the first born son of Gadla Henry Mphakanyiswa Mandela and Nosekeni Nonqaphi Fanny MaJali Mandela, the daughter of Nkedama of the amaMpevu clan of the Xhosa.

Ahh! Dalibhunga!

Lala Ngoxolo ke Madiba!!!

Dlomo, Madiba, Yem-Yem, oZondwa, Sophithso, Ngqolomsila, Vela bambhentsele, Tubhana, Qhumpase, Tande, MThembu, Ncikoza, Mtshikilana, Malangana, oZondwa zintshaba ezingasoze zimenzele nto. Nkosazana mThembukazi, Mkhabela, Dinangwe, Masende angaluselwa ongathatha uthi lakasha kanti udla lona uqobo . Msongi wensibhi ayibeke khanda uthi amagwala azombalela.

Ugqatso ulufezile!!!

Dr Maya Angelou – His Day is Done – a tribute poem for Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela RIP rest in peace Dalibhunga Dr Maya Angelou – His Day is Done – a tribute poem for Nelson MandelaHis day is done.
Is done.
The news came on the wings of a wind, reluctant to carry its burden.
Nelson Mandela’s day is done.
The news, expected and still unwelcome, reached us in the United States, and suddenly our world became somber.
Our skies were leadened.

His day is done.
We see you, South African people standing speechless at the slamming of that final door through which no traveler returns.
Our spirits reach out to you Bantu, Zulu, Xhosa, Boer.
We think of you and your son of Africa, your father, your one more wonder of the world.

We send our souls to you as you reflect upon your David armed with a mere stone, facing down the mighty Goliath.

Your man of strength, Gideon, emerging triumphant.

Although born into the brutal embrace of Apartheid, scarred by the savage atmosphere of racism, unjustly imprisoned in the bloody maws of South African dungeons.

Would the man survive? Could the man survive?

His answer strengthened men and women around the world.

In the Alamo, in San Antonio, Texas, on the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, in Chicago’s Loop, in New Orleans Mardi Gras, in New York City’s Times Square, we watched as the hope of Africa sprang through the prison’s doors.

His stupendous heart intact, his gargantuan will hale and hearty.

He had not been crippled by brutes, nor was his passion for the rights of human beings diminished by twenty-seven years of imprisonment.

Even here in America, we felt the cool, refreshing breeze of freedom.

When Nelson Mandela took the seat of Presidency in his country where formerly he was not even allowed to vote we were enlarged by tears of pride, as we saw Nelson Mandela’s former prison guards invited, courteously, by him to watch from the front rows his inauguration.

We saw him accept the world’s award in Norway with the grace and gratitude of the Solon in Ancient Roman Courts, and the confidence of African Chiefs from ancient royal stools.

No sun outlasts its sunset, but it will rise again and bring the dawn.

Yes, Mandela’s day is done, yet we, his inheritors, will open the gates wider for reconciliation, and we will respond generously to the cries of Blacks and Whites, Asians, Hispanics, the poor who live piteously on the floor of our planet.

He has offered us understanding.
We will not withhold forgiveness even from those who do not ask.
Nelson Mandela’s day is done, we confess it in tearful voices, yet we lift our own to say thank you.

Thank you our Gideon, thank you our David, our great courageous man.

We will not forget you, we will not dishonor you, we will remember and be glad that you lived among us, that you taught us, and that you loved us all.

Traditional leader: state must ‘take back seat’ in Former President Nelson Mandela’s burial in Qunu

A man wearing a traditional garment with Nelson Mandelas portrait outside parliament in Cape Town Masixole Feni AFP Traditional leader: state must take back seat in Former President Nelson Mandelas burial in Qunu

A man wearing a traditional garment with Nelson Mandela’s portrait outside parliament in Cape Town (Masixole Feni-AFP)


Port Elizabeth (South Africa) (AFP) – South African traditional leaders are calling on the government to allow adequate space for customary burial rites when Nelson Mandela is finally laid to rest Sunday.

“On Sunday next week, when we put him in his grave, all the rituals will be conducted by the Royal House,” Xhosa traditional leader Nokuzola Mndende told AFP.

“It will be a traditional ritual and the government should take a back seat and not interfere,” she added.

Mandela was born into the Thembu royal family, the leaders of a Xhosa-speaking people.

“An ox will be slaughtered to accompany him. It is only the Mandela clan which will conduct the rituals on burial day to prepare him for a safe journey.”

“All the taking at the grave will be done by the Mandela clan elders,” Mndende explained.

“If government intervenes, the ancestors will not accept and welcome him, and this will have a detrimental effect on the family members left behind as his spirit will come back to haunt them.”

Mandela is due to be buried at his childhood home of Qunu on Sunday, part of a week-long celebration of his life.

In contrast to a stadium memorial in Soweto and a laying in state in Pretoria, Mandela’s hometown burial will be more traditional, a mixture of Christian and traditional Xhosa rites.

source: AFP

Xhosa Cultural Union of Students (XCUS) – 2013 Opening Function

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Jessica Mbangeni performing at the 2013 XCUS Opening Function at Wits University

XCUS is a cultural society established within the University of the Witwatersrand.  It is the oldest cultural society at the University and was founded in 2001. Its aim is not only to unite Xhosa students within the university but to also establish a sense of identity and cultural knowledge in the space of the educational institution.

It encompasses young vibrant students, majority from the Eastern Cape, who have come to Johannesburg to create a success in their future and to give hope to the generations after them back home.

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XCUS Chairperson, Viwe Tyolwana and founding member Bakhangele Masabalala celebrating XCUS’ 12th birthday

This year on the 13th of April it held a 12th year birthday celebration and re-launch. This was an opening event and welcomed other students who are not part of the society. This served as a milestone to uncover the cultural pride and dignity that the society holds. It gave educational talks about the culture and cultural wear of Xhosa people. Well known actor Mthetheleli ‘Tazz’ Ngidi was there to encourage and motivate all the students in being confident of relational interactions with other cultures and languages. A newly established NGO founded and run by young Xhosa people called M-Power Development Initiative (MDI) shared its vision and reason to interact with XCUS with the aim of reaching rural schools and communities with information about careers, bursaries and Tertiary institutions. This address was done by Athenkosi Gcisa who is a former member of XCUS and a Wits alumni.

A new banner was unveiled as a sign of restoration and appreciation of the founding member Bakhangele Masabalala. The new committee voiced their plans and aspirations for the year. With that including unity amongst Xhosa students, allowing other students to know of the culture, uncovering a young black man/woman’s drive for success without forgetting where they come from and taking steps of social responsibility in the lives and dreams of young people in rural Eastern Cape with limited means and resources.

Xhosa Cultural Union of Students XCUS 58 1024x768 Xhosa Cultural Union of Students (XCUS)   2013 Opening Function

Xhosa Traditional Wear designed by Jessica Mbangeni

Article by Zimkita Madala (2013 XCUS Entertainment Officer)

Return of the Mandelas

Chief Zwelivelile Mandlasizwe Dalibhunga Mandela of the Thembu at Mvezo 685x1024 Return of the Mandelas

Chief Zwelivelile Mandlasizwe Dalibhunga Mandela of the Thembu at Mvezo

The air is thick, dry with heat, making it the parched companion to this arid environment. Thousands of aloes stand like stony sentries dotted along ridges, hills and plateaus, their headdresses a fiery red against the earth coloured surrounds. There is a deafening silence broken only by a gentle breeze that whistles in the ears. Inside a nearby boma (traditional hut) sits the inkosi (chief). Traditional beadwork adorns his head, arms and ankles with a more elaborate piece covering his neck and torso, the lion skin that some moments ago hang from a shoulder now rest under him. To his left and right sit his headmen and advisors, they are locked in deliberation, he is only here for a few hours and so must deal with all matters requiring his attention. He sits silently, listening, before saying anything. He is the embodiment of mediation, justice and leadership as is his duty through birth and custom, a heritage traced through a line of kings that go back twenty generations. History is alive in him today as he carries on his broad shoulders a responsibility to his people, both living and the dead. He is Inkosi Zwelivelile Mandlasizwe Dalibhunga Mandela. A distance away a great leader speaks loud and powerful but without a voice: “In my youth in the Transkei I listened to the elders of my tribe telling stories of the old days…of wars fought by our ancestors in defence of the fatherland…I hoped then that life might offer me the opportunity to serve my people and make my own humble contribution to their freedom struggle. This is what has motivated me in all that I have done.” His words, captured in this simple monument, tell part of the story of a man whose life began in this place ninety years ago. He is Rolihlahla Nelson Dalibhunga Mandela and this is his ancestral home, Mvezo. The story of how these two came to be here is intertwined and it lies in the history of those who laid the foundation from which grandfather and grandson came. It is located in the product of generations of Thembus, a subgroup of the Xhosa-speaking people, and their complex culture.

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Nelson Mandela Museum at Mvezo – The Light Bearers

The Light Bearers

Vusamazulu Credo Mutwa is a Zulu high Sanusi, the highest level healer – thought to be the last in South Africa and one of only two remaining on the African continent – and custodian of umlando (tribal history) and culture. “The baThembu people,” says Mutwa, “were a deeply philosophical people, a nation of highly regarded intellectuals, thinkers and mystics.” The nineteenth century Thembu Paramount Chief (king) Ngubengcuka, he continues, “was a very wise man to whom people went for discussion and advice and from him came people, whom I can say, were Christ-like in their training and outlook.” Ngubengcuka helped unify the Thembu people and from him came a line of leaders, mediators and reconcilers.“These are a people who are born to rule. The Ngubengcuka people are not only bloodline royal, if you look back into history you will find amongst the amaXhosa people men and women who were trained to become light bearers, who were people bred to lamula imfazwe, to stop the war,” says Mutwa, “It is their tradition.” In Thembu monarchy the king’s wives formed houses, the first three being the core; Great, Right and Left. The Great House traditionally produced the king’s heir but failing this a son of the Right House would be chosen. As well as the king, the royal houses also produced the chiefs, each with his own sphere of influence. Trained in conciliation and peace keeping, the sons of the Ixhiba or Left Hand house, as minor chiefs, were responsible for settling royal disputes between the two main houses. A “chief by both blood and custom”, Gadla Henry Mphakanyiswa was a descendant of the Ixhiba or Left Hand House through his father, the original Mandela and son of Ngubengcuka’s third wife.Andizi, ndisaqula!” Gadla was a staunch traditionalist, an acknowledged expert in Thembu history and culture, and an unofficial priest who presided over traditional rites. His sense of self and the world came from the spiritual-religious system of the Thembus, their worldview. This was based on of belief in complete interconnectivity through Qamata, the great spirit of the Xhosas, and “characterized by a cosmic wholeness, so that there is little distinction between the sacred and the secular, between the natural and the supernatural”. Around 1920 Gadla was summoned by the white magistrate after a ruling he had made in a local dispute was overturned. A strong sense of being wronged and a belief that he was accountable only to Thembu law drove his reply: “Andizi, ndisaqula!” (I will not come, I am preparing for battle). The magistrate charged Gadla with insubordination and deposed him, ending the Mandela chieftaincy. Gadla never fought a battle and instead suffered the humiliation/indignation of losing his title, wealth and land. So, what battle was he preparing for? One answer lies in the birth of a son. What’s in a name? Three rituals were performed for a young boy in 1918. The first was the burial of his inkaba (umbilical cord). The word inkaba symbolises interconnectivity and the place of its burial determines the connection of a child to its family and ancestral land. The imbeleko ritual is the physical, but more importantly, spiritual introduction of the child to its community and ancestors, who are asked to accept the child, bless and watch over them. Finally, the name given a child reflects some circumstance, event or natural phenomenon, or a family’s hopes or wishes. As is the right of the father, it was Gadla who marked his son Rolihlahla, meaning tree shaker or troublemaker. Nelson later wrote of this: “I do not believe that names are destiny or that my father somehow divined my future, but in later years, friends and relatives would ascribe to my birth name the many storms I have both caused and weathered.” In 1928, shortly before his death, Gadla called on the Paramount Chief, Jongintaba, descended of Ngubengcuka’s Great House. Gadla had helped Jongintaba, whose mother was from a lesser house, to obtain his position. He presented his son saying “I am giving you this servant, Rolihlahla. This is my only son. I can say from the way he speaks to his sisters and friends that his inclination is to help the nation. I want you to make him what you would like him to be; give him education, he will follow your example”. “Unanimity or not at all” – At age nine the young Nelson went to live with Jongintaba at the Great Place in Mqhekezweni, the heart of the monarchy. It was under the guardianship of Jongintaba that Nelson was groomed, like his father, to become an advisor to the future king. Tutoring at Mqhekezweni he learnt about the democracy of his people, the right of everyone to access traditional councils, and how these “ended in unanimity or not at all”. He attended school, the first in his family, and later Fort Hare University, the training ground for many African leaders, opportunities his father would not have been able to provide. While this western education captivated his mind and opened his eyes to the world, the Eurocentric portrayal of history he encountered there clashed with his Thembu education. It was also under his guardian that Nelson made his transition to manhood inside the circumcision rites of passage. Arguably the most important rite in the life of a Xhosa male, it represents the gateway into adulthood and full clan membership. He was given his manhood name Dalibhunga, meaning founder of the council, a name he gave more importance to than his others. “My life, and that of most Xhosas at the time, was shaped by custom, ritual and taboo. This as the alpha and omega of our existence, and went unquestioned. Men followed the path laid out for them by their fathers…I also learnt that to neglect one’s ancestors would bring ill-fortune and failure in life,” wrote Nelson. The Mandela biographers, such as Mary Benson, Fatima Meer, Anthony Sampson and Tom Lodge, all note how his rural upbringing was key to his future development. In 1941 the young Nelson, together with Jongintaba’s son Justice, left the Transkei for Johannesburg, his head full of ideas about ubuntu and the injustices of history. In a later jail memoir he wrote of this time: “I could see the history and culture of my own people as part and parcel of the history and culture of the human race.” The difficult early years in Johannesburg further opened his eyes to the broader problem of a racialised South Africa. His early legal work and political involvement with various individuals and organisations committed to the idea of an inclusive, egalitarian South Africa helped radicalise a man with an existing dislike of the injustices of his country. Shaking the apartheid tree On a Monday in October of 1962 it was Rolihlahla, armed with a “proud rebelliousness” and a “stubborn sense of fairness” inherited from his father, who walked into a Pretoria court wearing a traditional leopard-skinkaross (cloak) to face charges. “I had chosen traditional dress,” he says, “to emphasise the symbolism that I was a black African walking into a white man’s court. I was literally carrying on my back the history, culture and heritage of my people. That day, I felt myself to be the embodiment of African nationalism, the inheritor of Africa’s difficult but noble past and her uncertain future”. Nelson, himself a lawyer, played the white justice system at its own game and effectively put the apartheid system on trial in its own courtroom. After duping the prosecution he used his plea in mitigation to make a political statement about the country to a captive audience. In closing Nelson made the bold forecast that history would declare him innocent. The speech was directed at both his prosecutors and the listening world. It marked the beginning of his international reputation. This scene was repeated again in April 1964 during the Rivonia Trial when, despite facing a possible death sentence, he again exploited court procedure. As the defence’s first witness he was to set the tone and it was decided that, rather than testifying, he would make a statement from the dock. He spoke for four hours. Nelson again invoked his heritage through reference to his youth, the stories of his forefathers, of how he desired to make a contribution as spurred by his “own proudly felt African background”. He argued that his singular goal was to create an inclusive, democratic South Africa before laying down a challenge by declaring “it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die”. The troublemaker was striking at the ideological system that deposed his father, the battle had reached fever pitch. The accused were given life sentences, to be served on Robben Island. The island’s history is long and notorious, its first political prisoners having been sent there in 1658. During the 1800s prisoners were mostly Khoikhoi and Xhosas from the eastern Cape frontier, among them the Xhosa prophet Makana and several Thembu chiefs of the eighth British-Xhosa war in 1850. The parallels did not go unnoticed by its newest inmates. Richard Stengel, who collaborated on Long Walk to Freedom, recently wrote that the “key to Mandela is those prison years. He went in emotional and headstrong and emerged balanced and disciplined”. The years in “Robben Island University” were an individual and collective maturation process during which young radicals became elder statesmen. “An umbilical cord ties us former prisoners to it,” said former prisoner Ahmed Kathrada at the opening ofesiQhitini: The Robben Island Exhibition in1993. This metaphor of the island as a nurturing force was a strong one, challenging the idea of prison life as hardship. Instead, Kathrada read, “It is a picture of great warmth, fellowship, friendship, humour and laughter; of strong convictions, of a generosity of spirit, of compassion, solidarity and care,” a communal environment requiring “one to temper, but not obliterate one’s individualism in the interest of the greater whole”. Nelson, in a bid to inspire and give advice, wrote of this process of personal development in a letter to his wife Winnie Madikizela-Mandela in 1973 during one of her periods in detention:   “You may find that the cell is an ideal place to know yourself…In judging our progress as individuals we tend to focus on external factors…but internal factors may be even more crucial in assessing one’s development as a human being: honesty, sincerity, simplicity, humility, purity, generosity, absence of vanity, readiness to serve your fellow men – qualities within reach of every soul…the foundations of one’s spiritual life…Never forget that a saint is a sinner that keeps on trying.” Founding the nation The Nelson who emerged from prison was not the troublemaker who had entered it. In a sense those 27 years had helped him shed his young skin and become his manhood self, Dalibhunga (founder of the council). As Mandela biographer Anthony Sampson writes, he was now equipped for the task of “refounding a nation” and that “he personified a county looking for a future”. Nelson was grounded in and understood the ancient Xhosa proverb umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu (a person is not a person without people). Lifelong lawyer and friend George Bizos commented on this: “He is not an egotist. I have hardly ever heard him, when discussing political matters, to say ‘I’. It is always ‘we’ or ‘my organization’, or ‘the liberation movement’”. This understanding was part of the collective evolution of a movement towards a truly universal humanist philosophy; the traditional African concept of ubuntu (humanness) in its most inclusive form. Part of this was the recognition that the fates of all South Africans, oppressor and oppressed, were intertwined. Stengel writes that, during the early 1990s, Nelson’s leadership style mirrored that of his earlier guardian, Jongintaba. Mandela would call meetings at his home with his colleagues and listen quietly as they spoke before summarising their positions, adding his own and steering them towards a decision. This quality, says Sampson, made him “not so much post-modern, as pre-modern”, the vision of a “chief representing his people and being accessible to them…making them all feel part of the same society”. This commitment to the many peoples of his country stands captured in the monument at Mvezo: “I stand here before you not as a prophet but as a humble servant of you, the people. Your tireless and heroic sacrifices have made it possible for me to be here today. I therefore place the remaining years of my life in your hands.” Though originally made in Cape Town on 11 February 1990, the day of his release, here in Mvezo it seems to speak as much to the dead as the living. Power of a nation “I am the man I am today because of him,” says Mandlasizwe (33). These two lives parallel each other; Nelson the troublemaker, who left his rural world for the city of gold (Johannesburg) while Mandlasizwe, meaning power of the nation, returned to his rural roots from his urban birthplace. The other similarities, their physicality, core values and outlook, are striking.

Inkosi Zwelivelile Mandlasizwe Dalibhunga Mandela of the Thembu 300x200 Return of the Mandelas

Inkosi Zwelivelile Mandlasizwe Dalibhunga Mandela of the Thembu

Standing in the ruins of a boma in which Nelson’s infant years were spent, Mandlasizwe, pointing to his traditional attire, reflects on his place in history. “I usually dress like this when I am at Mvezo,” he says,“Nowadays it (identity) is being eroded and we need to remind the youth of their culture, their heritage. Without culture you have no identity”. At Mandlasizwe’s inauguration in April 2007 Nelson said that the fact that his grandson had taken up the chieftaincy would ensure that he rested peacefully in his grave. The position was open to him but he declined it in favour of national and international affairs, a decision which left him with much guilt. “This is a chieftaincy that was dead for 87 years,” says Mandlasizwe. The challenges of modern traditional leadership, however, are far more complex than before. In a globalised world rural areas are some of the most impoverished and in Mvezo unemployment is close to one hundred percent. Mandlasizwe’s challenge is to create local solutions to global problems for the nearly 130 000 people in his charge. He shares his grandfather’s love for the youth and a strong belief that education is the route to development. He has organised cultural learning trips for the youth of his village, one of these being to China where the choir performed at the 2007 Miss World. These trips are significant as most youth have never left the village, or owned a passport, and are made possible by the fact that Mandlasizwe’s government-paid traditional leader’s salary is used for his people. This is a gesture that emulates what Nelson did with his own income as president which went to his Children’s Fund.

Mandlasizwe Mandela with his advisors at the Mvezo Great Place 1024x685 Return of the Mandelas

Mandlasizwe Mandela with his advisers at the Mvezo Great Place

Furthermore, as if called by his Left Hand house heritage, Mandlasizwe studied political science, focusing on Southern African politics and conflict resolution; opening the possibility of a future in politics or diplomacy. However, these ambitions are a mixture of the personal that will be guided by the people: “I have always been a believer in my grandfather’s determination that you need to serve the people, and as long as you are committed to the people and are serving them the people shall determine what they want from you.” For now, Mandlasizwe’s being here represents the righting of a historical wrong, the culmination of a cycle that started in the time of Ngubengcuka and was continued by his descendants such as Gadla and Nelson. It is a return of title and to the land of his ancestors.

Inkosi Zwelivelile Mandlasizwe Dalibhunga Mandela with Jongisizwe Dani 200x300 Return of the Mandelas

Inkosi Zwelivelile Mandlasizwe Dalibhunga Mandela with Jongisizwe Dani

Mandlasizwe has re-founded his family’s council, a process given added meaning in that it was Nelson that gave his two month old grandson the name Dalibhunga during a family visit to Robben Island. He is one part of the future generations of Mandelas and as the custodian of tribal customs and culture is the continuation of an ancient way of life. “Under Western civilization,” writes Credo Mutwa in his book Isilwane, “we live in a strange world of separatism: a world in which things that really belong together and which ought to be seen as a greater whole are cruelly separated.” As the party prepares to leave the Mvezo Great Place, Jongisizwe Dani, Mandlasizwe’s cousin and headman, comments that when projects to restore the original homestead are complete a series of traditional ceremonies will be performed. “We will slaughter a cow here and one at the river. To get the blessings of the ancestors…to let them know that the Mandelas have returned.” Source:, published 10 November 2011

All photographs by Tom van der Leij