He loves Bollywood films, gorges on naan and biryani, and has grown up listening to the stories of Mahatma Gandhi. On his first visit to Delhi, to celebrate the national day of South Africa, Nelson Mandela’s grandson, Nkosi Zwelivelile Mandla Mandela recalls memories of his celebrated grandfather, who also happens to be a Bharat Ratna receipient.
As a child, while he got to visit the imprisoned Mandela only twice a year, his grandfather’s letters kept them close. “He sent me my first pair of soccer boots, and I was fascinated how he did that from the prison." Zwelivelile was abroad in Swaziland when his grandfather was released in 1990. “I saw him on TV, walking out a free man. I left everything, grabbed my passport and hitchhiked to Johannesburg. The truck driver who gave me a lift refused to believe that I was a Mandela but when I was getting off, he handed me money and said, ‘I have to give you money to go home, I don’t want to be left with guilt if you are actually his grandson.’ It was a great moment for all of us to see him back in the house he built 27 years ago.”
“Once grandfather asked me what I wanted to be. I told him I wanted to be a DJ. He asked me what that was. When I explained he was devastated. So I went back to school, got two diplomas and set up two companies.” Eight years later, his grandfather asked him to go back to school again. “When I started studying Political Science, I realised what he meant. He had seen that I was becoming self-centred. Once there, my life took a turn. Now, I stay in a remote village, my grandfather’s place of birth. My house has no clean water. I live with the same challenges that my community faces.”