Nelson Mandela’s Children

Nelson Mandela was a world-renowned political leader who fought for the rights of South Africans. He passed away on December 5, 2013, but his legacy continues through his children. He has four children from his first marriage to Evelyn Mase and two daughters from his second marriage to Winnie Madikizela-Mandela.

Children from His First Wife

Mandela married his first wife, Evelyn Mase, in 1944. The couple had four children together: Madiba “Thembi” Nelson Mandela, Makaziwe “Maki” Mandela-Dlamini, Makgatho Lewanika Mandela, and Pumla Makaziwe “Maki” Mandela.

Madiba Mandela

The oldest of Nelson Mandela’s children was born in 1945. Madiba “Thembi” Mandela was named after his father. The name means “troublemaker” in isiXhosa. On July 13, 1969, he died at the age of 24 in an automobile accident while his father was still in prison. Nelson could not attend his son’s funeral, as he was not allowed to leave. He was also not permitted to ask for more details about the accident and only found out the day after the newspapers published the news.

Makaziwe Mandela

Makaziwe “Maki” Mandela-Dlamini was born in 1948 and is the second child of Nelson Mandela and Evelyn Mase. However, she died just nine months after her birth.

Makgatho Mandela

Makgatho Lewanika Mandela, the third child of Nelson and Evelyn, was born in 1950. He was married twice and had four sons: Mandla, Ndaba, Mbuso, and Andile. Makgatho died of AIDS on January 6, 2005, at 54. When Nelson Mandela announced his death, he said: “Let us give publicity to HIV/AIDS and not hide it, because the only way to make it appear like a normal illness… like cancer, is always to come out and say somebody has died because of HIV/AIDS…”

After Nelson renounced his hereditary claim to the chieftaincy of the Thembu people and the death of his first son, Makgatho became the heir. When he died, his claim passed to his son, Mandla, who eventually became the chief.

Makgatho’s second wife, Zondi, passed away on July 13, 2003, at 46. Pneumonia was initially listed as the cause of her death; however, after her husband’s passing, her son Mandla revealed that her pneumonia was caused by AIDS.

Pumla “Maki” Mandela

The Mandela’s fourth and final child, Pumla “Maki” Mandela, was born in 1954. She was named after her older sister, who died in infancy. Of all the children born to Nelson and Evelyn, Maki is the only one still alive, outliving their father.

Maki is an academic, businesswoman, and gender equality activist. She has a BA from the University of Fort Hare, an MA from the University of Massachusetts, and a Ph.D. in Anthropology from the University of Massachusetts. Her career has included being an advisor at the University of the Witwatersrand and director of companies such as Nestlé South Africa, Enviroserv Holdings Limited, and Nagul Investment Holdings. She has also served as the director of the Mandela Foundation. She is currently the chair and co-founder of Mandela Wines.

She has won the Fullbright Distinguished Fellowship Award, the International Businesswoman of the Year from Women Working Together in 2007, and just recently, the La Moda Veste la Pace in 2022 for living up to the ideals of her father–liberty, respect for others, democracy, and anti-discrimination.

Children from His Second Wife

Nelson Mandela married his second wife, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, in 1958. The couple had two daughters together: Zenani Mandela and Zindzi Mandela.

Zenani Dlamini Mandela

Zenani Dlamini Mandela was born on February 4, 1959, in Johannesburg and spent much of her childhood without her father as he was imprisoned. She was almost born in prison because her mother was arrested after joining an anti-apartheid protest. The name “Zenani” means “What did you bring with you?” or “What have you brought to the world?” in isiXhosa.

Zenani studied diplomacy at the University of Zurich. She then pursued her education in Swaziland and the United States, enrolling at the Waterford Kamhlaba United World College of Southern Africa in Eswatini, Swaziland, and at Boston University in Boston, Massachusetts, USA. It was in Boston where she met Prince Thumbumuzi Dlamini of Swaziland. The couple married in 1973, making Zenani a princess. They had four children together before divorcing in 1990.

In 2012, Zenani became the first of Mandela’s children to enter public service when she was appointed Ambassador for South Africa to Argentina. She served in this position until she was appointed South African High Commissioner to Mauritius 5 years later, in 2017. In October 2019, she was named the South African Ambassador to South Korea.

Zindzi Mandela

Zindziswa “Zindzi” Mandela was born on 23 December 1960, the year uMkhonto we Sizwe (MK) was launched, in Soweto. Zindzi’s name means “well-settled” or “the stable one” in Afrikaans. Like her sister, she was born in Johannesburg and grew up without her father for much of her childhood. When her mother was arrested and sent to prison, she was left under the care of her older sister.

Despite a difficult childhood, Zindzi still managed to excel in her studies. She also wrote poems published in the books Black As I Am, Somehow We Survive: An Anthology of South African Writing, and Daughters of Africa: An International Anthology of Words and Writings by Women of African Descent from the Ancient Egyptian to the Present.

Zindzi later went on to study law at the University of Cape Town. She served as the South African Ambassador to Denmark in 2014. She made headlines when she tweeted, “trembling white cowards who are the thieving rapist descendants of Van Riebeck [sic]” and “uninvited visitors who don’t want to leave.” The tweets caused an uproar on social media, with some calling for her to be fired.

She stood by her comments but was ordered by foreign minister Naledi Pandor to conduct herself more diplomatically. In 2020, she was supposed to be appointed as the next South African Ambassador to Liberia as a punishment for her tweets, but she died on July 13 before taking up the position.