Graca Machel File picture: Elmond Jiyane

Cape Town - Graça Machel has assured South Africans that her 94-year-old husband, Nelson Mandela, is fine, in good spirits and “loving” his retirement at his home village in Qunu.

Pre-empting the inevitable question before she had even sat down for an interview, Machel warned that she would not be discussing Madiba’s health, “other than to say he is fine… this is absolutely true”.

But offering a little insight later, the international human rights activist who married Madiba in 1998, said: “There was a crisis when he went to hospital [in February]. He took time to recover, with his old body. But as we speak, he is fine, in good health and comfortable. He has even put on weight.”

“He loves his place in Qunu, he is at home,” she said, adding that this was evident to the public when photos showing him in good spirits were published during his 94th birthday celebrations in July this year.

Machel, who spoke to the Cape Times after delivering the second Desmond Tutu International Peace Lecture at UWC on Tuesday night, added that her husband was aware of her visit to Cape Town.


Machel said she had left Madiba the previous evening to fly to Cape Town to attend the lecture, and returned to him on Wednesday morning.

Introducing her to guests at the lecture, Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu said Machel was a former Frelimo freedom fighter and the first education and culture minister of a liberated Mozambique.

He drew loud applause and chuckles when he added that she was also a “beautiful young lady”, who then married “her first… ummm president”, referring to her status of being the First Lady in two countries, with her first marriage to former Mozambican President Samora Machel.

What had made South Africans embrace Machel was that “she has done what we hoped would happen to Madiba - she has cared for him,” said Tutu, thanking her for her “love and care for our father of the nation”.

Cape Times