'I'm Madiba's love child'

By Solly Maphumulo Time of article published Aug 13, 2010

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A second woman who claims to be Nelson Mandela's love child has come forward.

Onicca Nyembezi Mothoa, 63, of Soshanguve north of Pretoria says all her attempts to meet the man she believes is her father have been in vain.

In an exclusive interview on Thursday, Mothoa, too, claimed she was the iconic leader's child.

Last week, it was reported that Mpho Pule, born in 1945, had spent almost 12 years battling to see the man she believed was her father. She reportedly died last year, a month before Mandela's office wrote to say that they were close to confirming her claim.

As in Pule's case, the physical resemblance between Mandela and Mothoa is remarkable.

Mothoa was born in Atteridgeville in 1947 to Sophie Majeni, at a time that Mandela's political activism was peaking.

She says Madiba and Majeni met while her mother was working as a domestic worker in Pretoria.

But she says her struggle to meet the man she believes is her father has been a bitter one.

Mothoa made two trips to Qunu last year. She went back last April during Madiba's grandson Nkosi Zwelivelile Mandela's traditional wedding to French-speaking teenager Anais Grimaud. The wedding was at the Mvezo Great Place in Mthatha.

Mothoa is now saving money for a second trip later this year.

"Tata is my father, I know he will remember me. Last year, when I went to Qunu, he remembered my mother's name. The bodyguard told me he said it's Sophie, the beautiful 'bush lady'. The bodyguards still refused to let me in."

An induna (village headman), Mbamatshe Majola, confirmed Mothoa had been to Qunu several times. "She told me she is Mandela's daughter, I believed her," he said. "The minute I laid eyes on her, I knew she is a Mandela. It was like I am looking at Tat'omkhulu (Mandela)."

Majola said he had offered Mothoa accommodation and introduced her to Napilisi Mandela, the president's younger half-brother.

Meanwhile, Majeni and Mandela's secret liaison encountered problems immediately Mothoa came into the picture. When Majeni's parents realised their daughter had a child by the firebrand politician, they forced her to go into hiding.

This week, Mothoa's uncle, Zondo Mahlangu, was uncomfortable at first about speaking.

"This is a very difficult thing to talk about. That's why it was a secret for so many years. We knew Mandela was her father," he said.

Her family was paralysed by fear at the thought of being associated with Mandela, who had become a thorn in the side of the white-led regime. In the end, Majeni lost contact with Mandela.

Mothoa said photographs of Mandela her aunt had kept for decades were destroyed in 1976.

"Mandela was at the time like a curse word to all boers. I did not know anything or have a clue then," she said.

When she turned to her mother for answers to problems she encountered at every stage of her life, Majeni would plead ignorance and tell her daughter just to get on with things.

The hardship continued later when she arrived in Pretoria in search of work.

"I used to cry because I did not know why people hated me so much," she remembers.

"Everywhere I went I was maltreated and fired. I had a stigma. Even black people did not want to be associated with me."

In 1968, when she turned 21, there was a hint of why she had become an outcast. "A white man pointed a finger at me and said, 'This is Mandela's child'.

"It was the first time I had heard (this)."

Shortly after that, her stepfather, Levy Mothoa, who had raised her as his own, explained to her that she was Madiba's daughter.

Her mother still refused to talk about it.

Mothoa says when she was preparing for exams, people always thought she was studying political tracts.

Eventually, she moved to Cape Town, but it was as if she had taken Pretoria to Cape Town with her.

"I was ill treated by all my employers... They provoked me all the time. They knew I was stubborn and they wanted me to get into a fight so I could get arrested."

Her mother died in 2003 still refusing to discuss her paternity with her.

"She was very secretive. She refused to discuss it with me.

"But I heard she was hurt when they had to part ways in order to protect me and her."

Since her mother's death, Mothoa has gone to the Nelson Mandela Foundation and Mandela's Houghton home in search of answers and to meet and, perhaps, speak to Madiba.

At the Nelson Mandela Foundation, she couldn't get beyond the security gates, she says.

A woman came and spoke to her. "She would not let me see him. She said I should leave the old man alone, he needed to rest."

Despite all this, she won't give up. "I won't give up till he dies. I have never given up," she said.

The Nelson Mandela Foundation has been sent emails and SMSes since Wednesday. Spokesman Sello Hatang said on Thursday he needed an extra day to respond.

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