Madiba bids final farewell to his first wife


Former president Nelson Mandela buried his first wife Evelyn on Saturday, nearly half a century after the couple split up.

Mandela and his third wife, Graca Machel, attended the funeral in Johannesburg, along with Mandela's second wife, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, SAfm national radio reported.

Mandela married Evelyn Mase in 1944, the year he co-founded the African National Congress Youth League. She supported Mandela from her wage as a nurse while he completed his law studies.

Mandela and Evelyn, a cousin of his ANC colleague Walter Sisulu, had a daughter and two sons, as well as another daughter who died when she was a few months old.

The marriage broke up, partly under the strain of Mandela's devotion to the anti-apartheid cause, and the couple divorced in 1957.

Evelyn later returned to her native Transkei where she ran a shop to support the children.

One son, Madiba Thembekile, never reconciled with his father after the divorce and died in a car crash in 1969. Mandela was refused leave from jail to attend the funeral.

A year after the divorce, Mandela married Winnie Madikizela, a glamorous social worker who stood by him through 27 years of imprisonment and became the darling of the ANC. They separated two years after his release in 1990.

Evelyn spent much of her later years working as a Jehovah's Witness missionary. She kept the name Mandela, but in the late 1990s she married retired Soweto businessman Simon Rakeepile.

She died on April 30 aged 82 after a respiratory illness.

In 1998, on his 80th birthday, Mandela married Machel, the widow of Mozambique's assassinated founding president Samora Machel.


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