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International - "I am always measured by my grandfather": Mandela's granddaughter continues his fight

"I am always measured by my grandfather": Mandela's granddaughter continues his fight

Ndileka Mandela is involved with a foundation for health, education and youth in South Africa. The fact that Nelson Mandela was her grandfather has advantages and disadvantages for her.

"The moment we met for the first time, we became friends: me and the tall man I kissed and touched through a pane of glass." Ndileka Mandela remembers that day in 1981 when she met her grandfather Nelson Mandela. At the time she was 16 years old: just old enough to be allowed to enter the prison island Robben Island off Cape Town. And the man behind bars? He was still a long way from becoming a Nobel Peace Prize laureate and the first democratically elected president of his country.

When Nelson Mandela was released from prison on February 11, 1990, after more than 60 years of racial segregation, it heralded democracy in South Africa. The 27 years behind bars had turned Mandela gray and weakened his body. But they only strengthened his will to stand up for a multicultural nation with equal rights. Even the fact that the apartheid regime refused to attend the funeral of his son, Ndileka's father, in 1969, did not break the peace activist. After his release, Mandela sought reconciliation instead of revenge. "Hatred corrupts and poisons you, and whoever you hold grudges against has power over you." Her grandfather always said that, says Ndileka. And there was one thing Mandela did not want: that his jailers would continue to have power over him.

Almost every third person is unemployed

Four years after the African National Congress (ANC) was re-admitted and Mandela was released, the first democratic elections took place in South Africa. But big problems still plague the young emerging market: 55 percent live in poverty, around 30 percent are unemployed. The income gap is wider than anywhere else. In order to conquer poverty and regain trust, the government must again rely on the recipe of its founding fathers: ethical leadership, accountability, responsibility, a moral compass and competence. “These weren't just my grandfather's values, they are also the epitome of good governance,” says Ndileka Mandela.

The granddaughter of the great freedom fighter, spurred on by her grandparents, founded a foundation with which she is involved in the fields of education, health and youth development. Your last name is both a blessing and a curse. «I am always measured against my grandfather. That can be frustrating at times, because I am an independent person, ”says the 55-year-old.

But the name Mandela also opens doors: "One of the privileges is clearly that I can travel and represent the Mandela family or one of their memorial institutions around the world." The encounter with the leading figures in turn benefits their activism. The spirit of the famous grandfather still has an effect today.