Zoleka Mandela, Activist And Nelson Mandela’s Granddaughter, Passes Away Aged 43

Published 8 months ago
SOUTH AFRICA- MAY 2013: Zoleka Mandela. Feature text available. (Photo by Gallo Images / You / Dino Codevilla)

Zoleka Mandela, granddaughter of South Africa’s first democratically-elected President Nelson Mandela and his second wife Winnie Mandela, passed away on Monday evening after a long battle with cancer.

The family released a statement saying she was surrounded by friends and family and that “recent scans revealed significant disease progression including fibrosis in the lungs as well as several emboli”.

The author and global activist had always been open about her illness and treatment on social media (specifically on Instagram).


In a feature for FORBES WOMAN AFRICA in 2014, Mandela spoke about her string of personal tragedies and her thoughts when she received news of her diagnosis: “My father’s older sister had died from breast cancer. So I thought I was going to die.” Undergoing reconstructive surgery, she said she considered her scars “battle wounds”.

On September 5 this year, she celebrated her “last day of chemo” in an Instagram post. “[I am] finally back home…” she said.

The Nelson Mandela Foundation also released a statement mourning the loss of a “beloved grandchild of Mum Winnie and Madiba”.

“When her inspiring memoir When Hope Whispers was published, she graciously signed copies for all our staff and ran a leadership session for the staff around the book,” the foundation said on Tuesday.


“Zoleka was a tireless activist for healthcare and justice. 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 feature in the October/November 2014 issue of FORBES WOMAN AFRICA aptly captured her sparkling personality and indomitable strength.