Celebrating Mandela Day: From Winnie Mandela to Graça Machel, Looking Back at Some Key Women in Madiba’s Life

Celebrating Mandela Day: From Winnie Mandela to Graça Machel, Looking Back at Some Key Women in Madiba’s Life

  • Today is the birthday of late president, Nelson Mandela, an iconoclast who played a significant role in the liberation of South Africa from the oppressive apartheid regime
  • Throughout the late freedom fighter’s life, Madiba had strong women standing by his side through thick and thin
  • From his daughters and mother, Noqaphi Nosekeni, to his wives, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, Graça Machel and Evelyn Mase, all these ladies played a key role in Mandela’s life

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Former freedom fighter and South Africa’s first democratically elected president, Nelson Mandela, always had strong women by his side who shaped the man he became.

Nelson Mandela with his wives, Winnie Mandela and Graça Machel
Winnie Mandela is still regarded by many as the greatest love of Tata Madiba’s life. Image: Getty Images/Stock Image.
Source: Getty Images

From his mother to his daughters and wives, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, Graça Machel and Evelyn Mase, these brave ladies were all part of Madiba’s journey at different stages.

In honour of Mandela Day, Briefly News looks at some of the key women who played a big role in the icon’s life.

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Madiba’s wives – Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, Graça Machel and Evelyn Mase

Tata Madiba had three wives during his lifetime, with his most recent spouse, Graça Machel, remaining with him until his passing in 2013.

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Evelyn Mase

While many people view Winnie Mandela as Tata Madiba’s ‘big love’, the former president was actually married before he met her. Evelyn Mase, later known as Evelyn Rakeepile, was Madiba’s first wife, with the woman since passing away in 2004 at the age of 82, The Wall Street Journal wrote.

Evelyn Mase was married to Mandela until 1958
Evelyn Mase was Mandela’s first wife. Image: Getty Images/Stock Image.
Source: Getty Images

Evelyn was a nurse by profession and was married to Mandela for over a decade between 1944 and 1958. During the course of their marriage, he was studying law at the University of the Witwatersrand and was admitted as an attorney in 1951. Sadly, the couple later divorced, with Madiba noting that Evelyn made him choose between their family and his role as an anti-apartheid activist, the New York Times reported. The pair had four kids together, two sons and two daughters, South African History Online wrote.

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Winnie Madikizela-Mandela

Winnie was an anti-apartheid activist herself and became the voice for Mandela when he was in prison. Fondly known as the 'Mother of the Nation', this strong woman played a massive role in the liberation struggle in South Africa by mobilising women to fight against the unjust apartheid regime, South African History Online wrote. Winnie wed Mandela in 1958 when she was only 22 years old and the two had two daughters together, The Washington Post wrote.

Tata Madiba and Winnie Mandela in happier times
Winnie Mandela and Tata Madiba. Image: Getty Images/Stock Image.
Source: Getty Images

Winnie and Mandela’s marriage lasted close to 40 years, throughout the time when Madiba was imprisoned. Winnie herself had been imprisoned and was a hero as she fought against the unjust government, Britannica wrote. Sadly, however, the two divorced in 1992, just two years before Mandela was elected as South Africa’s first black president. The legendary Winnie has since passed away in April 2018, News24 reported.

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Graça Machel

Six years after divorcing Winnie, Tata Madiba married Graça Machel in July 1998. Graça is a Mozambican political public figure, women’s rights activist and the country’s first education minister, who was previously married to military commander, Samora Machel, United Nations Peacemaker wrote. Mandela and Graça had a 27-year age difference, with the two marrying on his 80th birthday and remaining together until his passing in 2013, The Guardian reported.

Graça Machel was Madiba's third wife
Graça Machel was married to Mandela until he passed away in 2013. Image: Getty Images/Stock Image.
Source: Getty Images

Madiba’s mom – Noqaphi Nosekeni

Not much is known about Mandela’s mother, apart from the fact that she passed away in 1968 when Tata Madiba was still imprisoned on Robben Island, South African History Online wrote. Noqaphi was married to Mandela’s father, Mphakanyiswa Gadla Henry Mandela, who passed away in 1930, when Madiba was only 12. Mandela’s mom was a woman of faith, and in 2011, the Methodist church she found in Qunu, Eastern Cape, was restored, The Telegraph wrote.

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Madiba's mom, Noqaphi Nosekeni passed away in 1968
Mandela visited his mother’s grave with Winnie Mandela. Image: Getty Images/Stock Image.
Source: Getty Images

Mandela’s daughters

The former president had a total of four daughters, two with his first wife, Evelyn, and two with Winnie.

Makaziwe Mandela

Makaziwe was the first daughter of Madiba and Evelyn and was born in 1948. Sadly, she passed away only a few months later in 1949, NewsOne wrote.

Madiba has faced great loss
Nelson Mandela is an iconoclast in South Africa, but he has also suffered great loss. Image: Getty Images/Stock Image.
Source: Getty Images

Pumla Makaziwe Mandela

The couple’s second daughter, Pumla Makaziwe Mandela, 68, was born in 1964 and was named in honour of her sister, who had passed. Briefly News previously reported on Pumla being a very educated woman and holding a PhD in Anthropology from the University of Massachusetts. She is also an entrepreneur and trailblazer and served as the director of Nestlé South Africa, has worked in academia at the University of the Witwatersrand, and was the chair of Nozala Investments, to name a few.

Pumla Makaziwe Mandela, Madiba's second eldest daughter
Pumla Makaziwe Mandela is the second daughter of Evelyn Mase and Nelson Mandela. Image: Getty Images/Stock Image.
Source: Getty Images

Zenani Mandela

Zenani Mandela, 63, is the eldest daughter of Winnie and Tata Madiba. Briefly News previously wrote that the political figure was formerly married to Prince Thumbumuzi Dlamini of Eswatini, whom she met while pursuing a science-related degree at Boston University. She had four kids with him, but sadly their marriage did not last, and they separated in 2002.

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Zenani Mandela with her dad, Nelson Mandela
Zenani Mandela is Winnie and Madiba’s eldest daughter. Image: Getty Images/Stock Image.
Source: Getty Images

Zindziswa Mandela

Zindziswa Mandela, also known as 'Zindzi’, was the youngest daughter of Mandela and Winnie, with the former poet and South African diplomat sadly passing away in 2020, EWN wrote. Zindzi was a youth activist, fighting alongside her parents against the apartheid era. In 1985, a 24-year-old Zindzi delivered an iconic speech on behalf of Madiba when former South African prime minister, PW Botha noted that Mandela could be released under strict conditions, all of which were rejected, News24 wrote.

Zindzi Mandela, Mandela's youngest daughter, passed away in 2020
Zindziswa Mandela is the youngest daughter of Tata Madiba and Winnie Mandela. Image: Getty Images/Stock Image.
Source: Getty Images

Mandela magic: 5 times incredible South African citizens showed ubuntu to those less, keeping his legacy alive

In a related story, Briefly News has put together a list of just some of the inspiring articles we have covered about philanthropists who are keeping Mandela’s legacy alive.

Today, on 18 July 2022, we give thanks to Tata Madiba for all the sacrifices he made for the people of Mzansi to live free and as one. His undeniable kindness, strength and humility was, is, and always will be a beacon of hope for the people of South Africa, and a reminder that we are stronger together.

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