Among all the many tributes to Nelson Mandela. the one I enjoyed most was the testimony of his daughter, Makaziwe, whose interview with the BBC was broadcast on Newsnight last night. That was because she spoke about Mandela as a man, rather than a mythical figure. Amidst her love and admiration, she was also able to acknowledge his flaws: the inevitable neglect of his family that came with devotion to the “struggle”; the emotional distance he maintained, even from his children, as an element of the personal strength that had allowed him to survive imprisonment.
That reminder that Nelson Mandela was a man, before he became a myth, was particularly interesting to me as the child of South African parents – who were students in Johannesburg in the 1950s, when Mandela was a vital figure in anti-apartheid politics. My father says he remembers seeing Mandela speak on campus at Wits University. Other key figures in the anti-apartheid struggle – Oliver Tambo, Joe Slovo and Steve Biko – later became family friends. Read more