Zoleka Mandela: Nelson Mandela's Granddaughter Dies Aged 43 Following Years-Long Battle With Cancer and 13 Years after Daughter Died in Car Crash

Zoleka Mandela was the child of Zindzi Mandela, Mandela's youngest daughter, from her first husband Zwelibanzi Hlongwane.

Zoleka Mandela, the granddaughter of Nelson Mandela, has died at the age of 43 following a long battle with cancer, her family confirmed on Tuesday. She passed away on Monday evening surrounded by her family and after being admitted to a hospital as part of her ongoing treatment, a family spokesperson said.

"Zoleka passed away... surrounded by friends and family," said Zwelabo Mandela. Mandela gained prominence in recent times for openly discussing her experiences with cancer treatment and her history of drug addiction. The Nelson Mandela Foundation praised her efforts, citing them as a source of inspiration to people across the globe.

End of a Long Battle

Zoleka Mandela
Zoleka Mandela X

Zoleka Mandela was the child of Zindzi Mandela, Mandela's youngest daughter, from her first husband Zwelibanzi Hlongwane. She had six children, with her youngest child being born in April 2022.

The family mentioned that recent scans showed "significant" improvement in the cancer that had impacted various parts of her body including her hip, liver, lung, pelvis, brain, and spinal cord.

"We mourn the loss of a beloved grandchild of Mum Winnie and Madiba," wrote the Nelson Mandela Foundation on social media, using the affectionate name by which the Nobel Peace Prize laureate was fondly known.

Zoleka Mandela
Zoleka Mandela X

"Her work in raising awareness about cancer prevention and her unwavering commitment to breaking down the stigma surrounding the disease will continue to inspire us all," the message added.

Zoleka, the granddaughter of Nelson Mandela's second wife and anti-apartheid activist, Winnie, was born into the renowned Mandela family on April 9, 1980, being direct descendants of King Madiba of the Thembu people.

She bravely spoke about being a survivor of sexual abuse during her childhood, as well as her struggles with drug and alcohol addiction.

In 2010, she faced a devastating personal tragedy when her 13-year-old daughter Zenani lost her life in a car accident while returning from a concert.

Sizwe Mankazana, the driver during the one-car accident that led to Zenani's untimely demise, was later acquitted.

The tragic car accident occurred on June 11, 2010, as they were returning from a World Cup concert on the M1 freeway. Zenani was seated in the back of the vehicle, which crashed into a barrier on a bend.

Zoleka Mandela
Zoleka Mandela X

Mankazana was initially arrested and faced charges of drunken driving and culpable homicide. At the time, Mankazana's father was in a relationship with Zenani Mandela-Dlamini, another of Nelson Mandela's children and Zoleka Mandela's sister.

At that time Zoleka was recovering from a suicide attempt. However, her daughter's death spurred her to become an advocate for road safety, particularly focusing on the perils faced by sub-Saharan African children on the roads, who are twice as likely to lose their lives in car accidents compared to other parts of the world.

Fight With Cancer and Philanthropy

Zoleka battled breast cancer in 2011, which unfortunately recurred in 2016. She used social media to share her journey, from having the tumor removed to her experiences with chemotherapy.

Zoleka Mandela
Zoleka Mandela X

In 2013, she gained prominence with her biography titled 'When Hope Whispers', centered around her battle with cancer. Zoleka was lauded for her candid and open approach to discussing her fight against cancer and the treatments she underwent.

In 2022, over a decade after her initial cancer diagnosis, she revealed that the cancer had metastasized to her lungs, liver, and spine.

"What do I tell my children? How do I tell them that this time around I may not get to live my life as a survivor? How do I tell them everything will be OK when it's not? I'm dying... I don't want to die," she wrote on her Instagram in August.

Zoleka Mandela
Zoleka Mandela X

"I'm learning to be okay with my eventuality," she told Kaya FM in April.

In 2016, Zoleka Mandela was named among the BBC's '100 Women' and was appointed the UN's global ambassador for communicable diseases.

At that time, she said that her biggest regret in life was the sense that she had only achieved meaningful accomplishments after her grandfather's passing in 2013, rather than during his lifetime.