From the day that South Africa was unchained from the tragic past of apartheid, the Mandela name has been held in high regard. Nelson Mandela, a struggle stalwart and father of a nation that could have easily descended into chaos and bloody warfare, had it not been for his tireless effort to push the agenda for peace and reconciliation, is a hero to billions of people worldwide. Because of his heart and genuine desire for peace South Africa is a nation that, today, has most of its citizens living side by side in goodwill and harmony.

It is a great shame that this same spirit has seemingly failed to keep his family together. With the icon lying gravely ill in hospital at the time of going to press, the world’s attention was unfortunately shifted from his health to the messy implosion of his family nucleus.

What started off as an eyebrow-raising affair – when his children and grandchildren came together to pursue legal action against their ailing grandfather, in a bid to gain access to the money that has been raised for and by Nelson Mandela over his lifetime – has culminated into what can only be described as a soap opera. 

From the day that South Africa was unchained from the tragic past of apartheid, the Mandela name has been held in high regard. Nelson Mandela, a struggle stalwart and father of a

As this piece is being written, the eldest grandson Mandla (son of Mandela’s eldest son Makgatho) and his aunt, Pumla Makaziwe (who is Mandela’s eldest daughter with his first wife Evelyn), have just had it out in a messy court battle over the issue of Mandla’s decision to exhume and re-bury the remains of Mandela’s deceased children from Qunu where Mandela grew up, to Mvezo where he was born. The location of the deceased children is key as it is with them the icon wishes to be buried. This court battle led to public media conferences where allegations of adultery and a family divided were brought to light.

While we are aware that all families have their fair share of drama, one can’t help but feel despondent at the way it has turned out for the Mandela name. Yes, it is true that it would be naïve to believe that Mandela’s children and grandchildren would share his character and personality traits, and live a life as inspirational as his. But for a family that comes from such heritage and acclaim, the Mandelas should have put more effort into ensuring that they protect the sacrosanctity of his name. Not only from public derision but also from their own greed and selfish ambition.

It cost Mandela the better part of his life to build his legacy into something that would inspire and motivate the world, and his family should view themselves as guardians and custodians of that legacy. Their aim should be to preserve the name and reverence that it comes with and behave in a manner worthy of being a Mandela. Sadly, all they have shown to not only the people their father and grandfather served and the world at large is that being a Mandela is synonymous with greed, ruthless ambition and getting as much as they can.

As a family, the Mandelas may over time be able to heal the gaping chasms that have come between them, but the reality is that the name has forever been tainted. When people remember Nelson Mandela in years to come, what will be fresh in their minds is not how he united a nation and brought a spirit of forgiveness and reconciliation, but that the apples fell so far from the tree that they bought disgrace to the house of Mandela. And for that they should all be ashamed.