Zindzi Mandela, the daughter of South African anti-apartheid icons Nelson Mandela and Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, has died aged 59, local media reported on Monday.
Mandela, who was South Africa’s ambassador to Denmark, passed away in Johannesburg in the early hours of Monday after a short illness, public broadcaster SABC reported, citing a family member.
Mandela, a political and social activist in her own right who was vocal particularly about persisting inequalities in the country, was raised by her mother after Nelson Mandela was arrested in her infancy and jailed for 27 years on treason charges for his role in fighting the racist apartheid regime.
Her father became South Africa’s first black president after the first democratic elections in 1994.
Zindzi Mandela’s childhood and education were constantly disrupted by her political activist mother’s frequent troubles with the apartheid government, and she was not able to finish school until she was sent to Swaziland.
She eventually was able to study at the University of Cape Town, earning a bachelor of law degree in 1985.
That same year, a young Zindzi Mandela famously read — at a public gathering in Johannesburg’s Soweto township — her jailed father’s reasons for refusing the offer of a conditional release from prison proffered by then South African President P. W. Botha.
She was the younger of Nelson Mandela’s two daughters with his second wife Winnie, whom he divorced in 1996, two years into his presidency. All in all, Nelson Mandela had six children, including four with his first wife Evelyn.
Zindzi Mandela’s death on Monday coincided with that of her older half brother Thembekile, who died in a car accident on July 13, 1969.
Her family was due to release a statement on her death later on Monday.
South Africa’s International and Cooperation Minister Dr. Naledi Pandor said she was shocked at the news of Mandela’s death and her department was still busy gathering information.
“Zindzi will not only be remembered as a daughter of our struggle heroes, Tata Nelson and Mama Winnie Mandela but as a struggle heroine in her own right. She served South Africa well,” Pandor said in a brief statement.
The relatively small but vocal Economic Freedom Fighters parties, whose policies such as the redistribution of land among blacks to reverse ownership imbalances created by apartheid found support from Zindzi Mandela, said it mourned her death.
“The EFF is saddened by the passing of fearless and uncompromising Zindziswa Mandela,” the party posted on its Twitter account.