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Zoleka Mandela’s friends comforted she will be reunited with daughter

Chief Mandla Mandela at Zoleka Mandela’s memorial service that was held at their grandmother’s house in Orlando, Soweto, yesterday. | Itumeleng English African News Agency (ANA)

Chief Mandla Mandela at Zoleka Mandela’s memorial service that was held at their grandmother’s house in Orlando, Soweto, yesterday. | Itumeleng English African News Agency (ANA)

Published Sep 29, 2023


Johannesburg - The one thing long-time friends of Zoleka Mandela are comforted by following her death is knowing that she will finally be able to see her beloved daughter Zenani Zanethemba Nomasonto Mandela, who died with a part of her.

Childhood friend Thatohatsi Mothibe said that although she was in pain at the death of Mandela, she was happy that she would finally be with the one person whom she knew a part of had died along with her, and that was her daughter.

Zenani, 13, was killed in a car crash in 2010 on the way back from a concert following the opening of the soccer World Cup in South Africa.

Mothibe was speaking at the memorial service for Mandela, attended by close friends and family, held at the Madikizela-Mandela House in Orlando, Johannesburg.

Mothibe, who has been friends with Mandela since 1990, described the 43-year-old as shy, selfless, someone who loved hard and fiercely, and a person who always wanted to protect those she loved from experiencing pain.

She said even though she shared some of her challenges with people on her Instagram account, many did not know she was like an iceberg that went through many of those challenges but only showed the tip.

Mothibe said she last saw her friend on Saturday, where they spent the whole afternoon simply talking, and by the following day she was feeling better, so she decided to cook.

"She loved to eat and it hurt me because the one thing she so loved doing, in the end, she couldn't even do that because I think chemotherapy also messed up her tastebuds, so everything tasted metallic."

She said she admired her friend's fighting spirit and how, even in her pain, her shining spirit always radiated through to the very end.

"Even when checking with the hospital on how she was doing, the nurses would say they admired her strength and respect, as even in her most painful moments when they had to move her, she would always say please and thank you.

"We could sit here and try to tell you who she was, but you had to experience Zoleka physically to comprehend the loving, caring, forgiving, persistent person she was; it was unbelievable," she said.

Janine Wools, another long-time friend whom Mandela referred to as Jay since they met 13 years ago at Houghton House, where they were roommates, described how the two of them clicked from day one and used to laugh at the most impossible times.

Wools said she even had one of those awkward moments yesterday when she went to wash the body of her friend.

"I stood there and started giggling, not out of disrespect but because we were so culturally different, and she always used to pull me into these cultural situations where I would not know what was going on but I would make running commentary, and that would always have her in stitches. We would often sit and laugh in serious situations we were not supposed to, but that was us and our little moments together.

"I'm going to miss her presence and her just being around because for us, we could lie on the bed for hours the whole day, not speaking, just lying there in one another's space, just being, and those are days I will miss the most," she added.

Mandela's family will bid her farewell in a private service at the Bryanston Methodist Church today.

The Star

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