Once upon a time, in a land that was oppressed by a group of people, hope came in form of a struggle hero and his wife. The couple loved each other very much and out of their union a daughter was born on 4 February, 1959.
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The man and his wife named the beautiful little girl Zenani. When she was just five years old, Zenani's father was taken away to a prison by the oppressive rulers. Her childhood was not easy and she had to spent nearly three decades without her dad. But, she followed in her parents' footsteps and Zenani's story had a happy turn, she even ended up marrying a prince.
It might sound like a fairy tale but it is not. It is the story of Zenani Mandela-Dlamini, the daughter of Nelson Mandela and Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, who celebrated her 63rd birthday this past week. In celebration of her special day, Briefly News decided to take a closer look at the life and career of Zenani Mandela-Dlamini.
Born to some of the most famous parents in South Africa's history
We don't choose our parents, and some people inherit their parents' struggles. Zenani Mandela-Dlamini and her sister were both blessed and cursed by who their parents were. Zenani is the eldest daughter of Winnie Madikizela-Mandela and Nelson Mandela.
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Zenani had a difficult childhood. The Guardian reported Zenani was nearly born in jail after her mother was arrested near her due date in 1959. She was only four and her sister, Zindzi Mandela, was still a toddler when their father was imprisoned by the apartheid government. Nelson Mandela spent the next 27 years in prison and Zenani reportedly only got to visit him after she turned 16 years old.
It wasn't easy being the daughters of two of the most famous freedom fighters in the country but she and her sister both managed to excel and forge their own successful paths later on in life. During Zenani's speech at her mom's funeral, she opened up about what it was like having Nelson Mandela and Ma Winnie as parents. She was quoted saying:
"Every generation is gifted one or two people who shine as brightly as the brightest stars. My sister and I are doubly lucky, in that we got to call Winnie Nomzamo Madikizela-Mandela our mother and Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, our father."
Strong parents nurture strong children
The pressure of being Nelson Mandela and Winnie Madikizela-Mandela's child could have either been Zenani's downfall or it could have pushed her to become a force to be reckoned with. Luckily, it was the latter for the 63-year-old.
In 2012, Zenani became the first of Nelson Mandela's children to enter public service when she was appointed Tony Leon's successor as the Argentina ambassador, BBC reported. She held the position until 2017 and two years later Zenani was appointed as the SA Ambassador to South Korea.
Zenani knew how to fill her mother's shoes even before her death in 2018. After the shocking divorce of Nelson Mandela and Ma Winnie, Zenani became the stand-in First Lady of SA. However, former Mozambique first lady Graça Machel took over the role when she and Nelson Mandela tied the knot on his 80th birthday.
South Africans compare Zenani Mandela-Dlamini to Julius Malema
Julius Malema is known to be an outspoken, fire-spitting politician who often brings the heat to parly. In 2018, social media users compared Zenani to the EFF leader following a damning speech at her mother's funeral.
Ma Winnie's eldest daughter gunned for her mother's critics, IOL reported at the time. She spoke about Winnie's fight against the previous regime, saying:
"She dared to take on one of the most powerful and evil regimes of the past century, and she triumphed. For those who have not had the time or the courage to go beyond the quick headlines or the rushed profiles, I urge you to search the archives so that you may fully appreciate who my mother really was, and why her life and story matters so much”.
Zenani came out guns blazing, sending a clear message to those who've 'vilified ' her mother. She said the family have not forgotten those who slammed Ma Winnie online, in books and in the media. Zenani spoke about the pain the stories about her mother caused her loved ones, yet they now praised her following her death.
Zenani also threw shade at people who compared her mother and father's legacies to one another. She said:
"Unlike many of those who imagine a contested legacy between my father and my mother, we do not have the luxury of such a choice. The two of them were our parents. And all we ask is: no matter how tempting it may be to compare and contrast them, just know that sometimes it is enough to contemplate two historical figures and accept that they complemented each other, far more than any popular narrative might suggest”.
Even the most perfect love stories aren't guaranteed a happy ending
As on 2020, there is an estimated 7.753 billion people on the planet. With so many people in the world, what were the chances that a struggle icon's daughter and a prince of the country she had attended college in, would meet in the United States?
Zenani met her future husband, Prince Thumbumuzi Dlamini of Swaziland, while studying science at Boston University. It seemed like fate - a story worthy of its own fairy tale movie. Before securing a scholarship at the prestigious US university, Zenani studied at the Waterford Kamhlaba United World College of Southern Africa, which is located in the country where Prince Thumbumuzi Dlamini is a prince. Not only did Zenani know his home country, but she and the prince also studied the same course at Boston University.
The duo ended up tying the knot in 1973 despite their 10 year age gap and they had four children together: daughters Zaziwe (1977) and Zamaswazi (1979), and sons Zinhle (1980) and Zozuko (1992). Despite what seemed like match made in heaven, reports of their marital struggles first surfaced in 2002. News24 reported at the time that Zenani and her Swazi prince's marriage was on the rocks.
His daughter's crumbling marriage reportedly broke Mandela's heart. The publication reported the prince confirmed he and his missus were no longer living together but he still loved her wholeheartedly.
He was quoted saying:
"Every family has its problems. I love Zenani. She will not go anywhere because she was married in the traditional Swazi way," said Prince Dlamini. In my culture if a woman is married in the traditional way, she remains your wife despite any problems arising from the marriage."
Till this date, the couple remains separated but they never officially divorced. The reasons for their separation is also not public knowledge, Answers Africa reported.
Source: Briefly News