Nelson Mandela's daughter shares memories of her father

Nelson Mandela's daughter shares memories of her father
A girl held up by her mother kisses a statue of the late Nelson Mandela in Johannesburg, South Africa. (Muhammed Muheisen / Associated Press)

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa -- Nelson Mandela's eldest daughter, Makaziwe, shared memories of her father with the BBC and described the late elder statesman's "wonderful' last day, spent surrounded by members of his family.

"When the doctors told us, I think Thursday morning ... that there was nothing that they could do, and said to me, 'Maki, call everybody that is here that wants to see him and say bye-bye,' it was a most wonderful day for us, because the grandchildren were there, we were there," she said in an interview broadcast Monday.


"Even at the last moment, we were sitting with him on Thursday the whole day," she continued. "It was a wonderful time, if you can say the process of death is wonderful. But Tata [Mandela] had a wonderful time, because we were there."

Makaziwe said she told her father often in recent months that she loved him. "And maybe he would open his eyes for just a second and close those eyes," she said.

Mandela, who died Thursday at the age of 95, was unable to speak in the final months of his life because of tubes in his throat, according to the family.

The confirmation that the family knew early in the day Thursday that Mandela couldn't be saved raised questions about two other daughters from another Mandela marriage, Zindzi and Zenani, being at the London premier of the film "Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom," apparently unaware that he was dying.

Zindzi told journalists before the showing that her father was "fine," adding, "He's just a typical 95-year-old who is frail."

Zindzi and Zenani are daughters of Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, who was also at the Mandela home when he died.

The Mandela family, criticized by former Anglican archbishop of Cape Town Desmond Tutu and others over their bitter public disputes earlier this year, appear to be treading a more careful line since his death.

In a statement Sunday, family spokesman Temba Templeton Matanzima called on the world to uphold Mandela's values of honoring "the humanity in each other" while solving difficult problems.

"In this regard, we [the Mandela family] enter into a solemn covenant with you the people of our country, Africa and citizens of the world that we will be true to the values and ideals which Tata stood for," he said. "As a family we have no option except to be bound by these values. Let the word go here from hence that we dare not fail!"

Daughter Makaziwe made headlines in June when she called foreign media who flew into South Africa to cover the vigil outside a Pretoria hospital where Mandela lay ill racist "vultures."

"It doesn't mean that I dislike journalists per se," she told the BBC. "I dislike the attitude that I see displayed sometimes."

She said she still did not understand why journalists had been so eager for news of her father.

"You guys are professionals. You could have done it in a much more professional way," she said. "We are coming here every day and they're taking pictures. We're coming out, they're taking pictures. How many pictures can you take of individuals? For me it was more about who first gets the story that he's gone. It was not so much, as I saw it, about an interest in the health of the man."

She also spoke of her bitterness that her father was often absent in her life because of his anti-apartheid work.


"I have the stubborn streak, I speak my mind, and I think there were many times when my dad couldn't stand the fact that I was a woman," she said. "I would question, I would challenge, I did not agree at times with many things that he would say. I was angry, I was bitter as a child, because I had a father who was there but not really there."

She said that despite the charismatic public persona, her father was "awkward" with his emotions and found it difficult to say "I love you."

"People don't understand that, because they see the public persona," she said. "But Tata had the public persona and the private persona. He couldn't express his emotions. There were few and far in-between moments when you'd catch Tata in a good mood, and you'd ask him about things and he would engage. But when it came closer to the heart, he would go, "Oh God what am I doing?" and shut down. Because he grew up in a society ... where you had to be seen but not heard."

She also acknowledged the divisions in the family with children from two marriages but said her father wished they would get along.

Makaziwe was involved in a lawsuit this year to try to get control of two Mandela companies and to remove lawyers her father had appointed, as well as a court battle with his grandson Mandla over the burial place for family remains.


Twitter: @latimesdixon