Johannesburg - Zindzi Mandela says she is blessed by her last memory of her father, Nelson Mandela. “I have a very nice memory - my last memory - of him is very nice. I think that’s my blessing, that the last time I saw him I had been teasing him and playing with his hair and I could sense an inner eye roll, ‘Oh my God, here is this loud child again’. And the smile and how he tried to lift his head and reach out to me,” she told ITV News in the first exclusive interview after Madiba’s death.
“That’s my last memory of him. I will treasure it forever.”
The interview was broadcast as Mandela’s lying-in-state ended on Friday evening with his coffin being carried down the steps of the Union Buildings’ amphitheatre for the last time.
Mandela’s grandson Mandla spoke softly to it, following traditional custom. He grimaced in emotional pain as the coffin was carried to the hearse.
A solemn-looking Mandla has remained with the coffin each day, travelling with it as it was transported to and from 1 Military Hospital.
The closure of this period of mourning left thousands of people disappointed, although according to official figures 100 000 mourners viewed his body.
Zindzi told ITV News’s Mark Austin of the importance of forgiving her father for any hurt he had caused her and about the guilt she felt at not being with him when he died.
And while she is yet to go back into his bedroom and shed a tear for her father, who died at his Houghton home last week while she attended the London premiere of Long Walk to Freedom, Zindzi said she had forgiven herself.
She told Austin there were often episodes “of my Dad’s health where the family get anxious, where we were told to be on standby, so I thought it was one of those moments when I heard he really wasn’t doing well.
“But from the tone from people at home, I realised it was more serious,” she added.
“I spoke to the director and said we’ll go to the premiere and we’ll talk to people but if you could please have us excused by the royal couple (Prince William and his wife Kate), that as soon as the lights went down we would need to go back to the hotel, my sister and I, and to wait to hear and be in touch with the family at home.
“We did that. Just as we left, my sister called from the car and that’s when we knew,” Zindzi said. “I said ‘Oh my God, no, what time was that? – and I knew.”