Zoleka Mandela on how her kids dealt with her terminal illness

Zoleka Mandela. Picture: zolekamandela/Instagram

Zoleka Mandela. Picture: zolekamandela/Instagram

Published Sep 27, 2023


As parents, we have no handbook on how to deal with possible scenarios. When it comes to death, the taboo subject is usually swept under the carpet and left gathering dust until it’s too late.

For activist and author Zoleka Mandela who passed away on Monday after a long battle with cancer, it was a conversation that needed to be had with her four children.

How does a mother tell her child she won’t be there, beaming with pride, when they graduate? How does a parent explain they won’t be there to wipe away their tears when they experience their first heartbreak?

It’s questions that probably weighed heavy on Mandela’s mind. She was only 43 years old but had a lived a lifetime of grief and sorrow; the epitome of loss after losing two children in two consecutive years.

The granddaughter of Struggle stalwarts Nelson and Winnie Mandela during an interview with Kaya FM about five months ago, explained that she was blessed and fortunate enough to be in the planning stages.

“I’m okay with living despite an expected death, so I’m always evaluating different facets of my life like my relationships, my priorities, my goals, and things like that,” she said.

“I’ve been put in a place where I actually get a say in where I want to be, especially with my children - being a single parent and the only parent that looks after all my children,” Mandela continued.

When asked about how her children are reacting to her cancer diagnosis, Mandela said, “My kids are in a good space.

“I just want the best for them, I just don’t know how my health or the deterioration of it would affect them,” she continued.

During a previous interview with eNCA, Mandela explained, “I have to be very careful with what it is that I share, so I share.

“They are in therapy for my diagnosis, and they know they have in me someone that they can talk to.

“What I feel and what I found is that my kids are fine because I'm fine, but at the same time, I'm realistic about what I'm feeling.”

Zoleka Mandela is survived by her four children, Zenani, Zenawe, Zenani and Zwelami.