Nelson Mandela’s son, Thembekile is killed in a car accident


Nelson and his son Thembekile.

Sunday, 13 July 1969

Thembekile “Thembi” Mandela, the eldest son of Nelson Mandela and Evelyn Mase was killed in a car accident while his father was serving life sentence on Robben Island. Mandela, who always played a brother figure for many of his inmates was filled with anguish at not being allowed by the authorities to attend Thembi’s funeral or to have access to details about the fatal crash. Thembi died when three cars collided on the fog-bound Touws River road, leaving four people dead and another four injured.

Among the deceased was a middle-aged man and Italian tourist, Mrs Christina Klaasen, 59, of Bloemfontein, Miss Irene Similani, 35, of Cape Town. Thembi was only 24 years old when he met his untimely death, leaving behind his wife Molly de Jager and two daughters, Ndileka, four, and one year old Nandi.

• Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, (2012), ‘Honouring Thembekile Mandela’, 22 February, [online], available at 31 May 2012)
• Times Live, (2012), ‘Mandela gets closure on 1969 death of eldest son’, 22 February, [online], available at 31 May 2012)

Last updated : 12-Jul-2013

This article was produced for South African History Online on 05-Jul-2012