Zindziswa “Zindzi” Nobutho Mandela was born on 23 December 1960 in Soweto to South African struggle icons Nelson Mandela and Winnie Madikizela-Mandela. It would be 18 months after her birth, in 1962, that her father Nelson Mandela was to be imprisoned and eventually sentenced to life in prison at Robben Island after the conclusion of the Rivonia Trial in 1964. 

She went on to live with her mother Winnie Madikizela-Mandela who in 1977 was banned by the apartheid government to Brandfort in the Orange Free State Province for eight years. This naturally deprived Zindzi of a normal upbringing and education. However, she was sent to Swaziland where she finally finished her secondary education. In 1985 she earned her BA Law degree at the University of Cape Town. It was also the very same year that she read her father’s refusal speech directed at then Prime Minister of South Africa P.W. Botha in relation to his early conditional release.

Zindzi served as deputy president of the Soweto Youth Congress, was a member of the Release Mandela Campaign, was recruited as an underground operative of Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK). She worked with the communities of Weilers/Orange Farm to launch the first ANC branch with struggle leader Walter Sisulu in the 1990s, and served in the MK Veterans' Association in the Lesley Moatshe branch.

Zindzi has been married twice. From her first marriage to Zwelibanzi Hlongwane she has four children, Zoleka Mandela (1980), Zondwa Mandela (1985), Bambatha Mandela (1989), and Zwelabo Mandela-Hlongwane (1992). In 2013 she remarried, this time to former South African National Defence Force member Molapi Motlhajwa. However, their marriage did not last for over a year.

Zindzi was currently serving as South Africa’s ambassador to Denmark. In 2019 her tenure as the ambassador to Denmark was brought into the spotlight after her controversial tweets on the social media platform Twitter, about land reform in South Africa. One of the tweets she posted read, “Dear Apartheid Apologists, your time is over. You will not rule again. We do not fear you. Finally #TheLandIsOurs”. This led to lobby group AfriForum demanding that she be recalled as the ambassador of South Africa to Denmark. Additionally, several complaints had been submitted at the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) in relation to the social media posts by civilians who argued that her tweets did not reflect the attitude and views that should be held by an ambassador.


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