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The private heartache of public hero Nelson Mandela

world Updated: Dec 06, 2013 20:07 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times
Nelson Mandela

One of the greatest men in the world had a heartbreaking family life.

Nelson Mandela, the South African anti-apartheid revolutionary who spent 27 years in prison and emerged to become the country’s first black president, died on Friday.

His life of 95 years is a legacy. But it is also a story of loss and loneliness – separation from family for almost three decades, two broken marriages, and the death of three of his six children.

Mandela fell in love with Evelyn Ntoko Mase and married her in 1944.

But their first daughter died aged just nine months in 1947.

They had three more children, but their married life became increasingly bitter due to his frequent absences and political commitments.

They divorced in 1957, with Mase accusing him of adultery.

Mandela then married Winnie Madikizela in 1958. They had two daughters.

In 1964, Mandela was sentenced to five years of jail before being handed life imprisonment in 1964 for opposing the apartheid regime in South Africa.

While he was serving the life term, his eldest son was killed in a car crash in 1969. But Mandela was not allowed to attend his son’s funeral.

A year before, he had also been barred from attending his mother’s funeral.

Two years after he was released in 1990, Mandela and his second wife separated.

In 1994, Mandela became South Africa’s first democratically-elected president. Two years later, the couple divorced.

On his 80th birthday in 1998, Mandela got married for a third time – to Graca Machel, widow of former Mozambican president Samora Machel.

Finally, it looked like he had found happiness in the hearth.

Then – in 2008 – his 54-year-old son from his first marriage died of Aids.

But the last high-profile loss to break his heart was the death of his beloved, 13-year-old great-granddaughter. She died in a car crash on the eve of the 2010 football World Cup.

In mourning, Mandela did not attend the opening ceremony of the World Cup.

But that was not all.

In his last years, Mandela’s family members, including two daughters, had been at war over his fortune.

His daughters - Makaziwe from his first marriage and Zenani from his second marriage - were embroiled in a legal battle for the control of a $1.3-million trust fund.

Mandela was reportedly livid at his family for trying to meddle in his financial affairs.

But when he died early on Friday after a prolonged lung infection, the family was together by his side.

(With inputs from agencies)

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