Tagged: “South Africa”

Tribute to a Freedom Fighter – Zindzi Mandela

 South African Broadcasting Centre, Johannesburg, SA, – Zindziswa Mandela, an internationally-known South African freedom fighter, speaker, writer and diplomat who made forgiveness a hallmark of her life, passed away on July 13 after being diagnosed with COVID-19 in a Johannesburg hospital. She was 59-years-old.

“Zindzi” to all who knew her, was the youngest daughter of global peace and forgiveness icons Nelson Mandela  and Winnie Madikizela-Mandela. She had served as her country’s first Ambassador to Denmark  (2015-2020) and had recently been named Ambassador to Liberia. Also known as Zindzi Mandela-Hlongwane (her first husband was Zwelibanzi Hlongwane), she is survived by her four children and her second husband Molapo Motlhajwa.

Born two days before Christmas in 1960, Zindzi was 18 months old when her father was arrested and charged with sabotage and treason. For 20 years, he had directed peaceful, nonviolent acts of defiance against the South African government and its racist policies.  Zindzi was only 3 years old when Nelson was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison where he eventually spent 27 years–much of it at hard labor.

At age 12, Zindzi wrote to the United Nations, urging it to intervene to protect her mother (also an anti-apartheid activist) who was sent to prison for 12-15 months at a time, mostly in solitary confinement and often tortured. In 1976, Zindzi accompanied Winnie when she was banished by the apartheid government to Brandfort, the site of a former concentration camp built by the British during the Second Boer War.

Zindzi and her mother were unceremoniously dumped at house 802 in Brandfort which had no running water, no electricity, no floors and no ceilings. Neither of them could speak the local Sotho language. A few years later the house was firebombed.

Zindzi rose to international prominence in 1985 when the white minority government offered to release Nelson Mandela from prison if he denounced the violence perpetrated by his movement, the African National Congress, against apartheid–the brutal system of racial discrimination that was being enforced in South Africa. Zindzi was the one who read her father’s letter rejecting the offer at a packed Soweto football stadium that was broadcast around the world.

Five years later, Nelson was released from prison and famously decided to forgive his captors and oppressors while moving forward in the spirit of reconciliation, in order to achieve a “rainbow nation at peace with itself and the world.”

Largely through his own negotiations, Zindi’s father persuaded white South Africans to share power with the black majority–an almost unbelievable transformation of the apartheid state into a colorblind democracy that soon after elected him to be its first Black president. He is often called “the father of South Africa” and in 1993 he received a Nobel Peace Prize.

In 1994, Nelson published his autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela, much of which he had secretly written while in prison. The book inspired the 2013 movie Mandela: Long Walk to Freedomthat tells the complicated and not always uplifting story of the man who went from prisoner to president. Multi-disciplinary African artist Lindiwe Matshikiza portrayed the adult Zindzi in the movie while African child-actress Refilwe Charles played a younger Zindzi. Watch the 2 min. 31 sec. trailer.

After viewing the movie, Zindzi said it “reasonably portrayed” her father’s shift from embracing violence to his post-prison insistence on forgiveness, reconciliation and peace. At the same time, she added, that shift created a good deal of friction between the two before she, too, embraced “the forgiving life.”  

Another popular movie about the Mandela family was Invictus, a 2009 biographical sports drama directed by Clint Eastwood and starring Morgan Freeman (as Nelson Mandela), Matt Damon (the country’s rugby team captain) and Bonnie Henna (the South African television personality who played Zindzi). The story is based on the John Carlin book Playing the Enemy: Nelson Mandela and the Game That Made a Nation about the events in South Africa before and during the 1995 Rugby World Cup.

The tagline for the movie Invictus was: “His people needed a leader. He gave them a champion.” The movie received positive critical reviews and earned Academy Award nominations for Freeman (Best Actor) and Damon (Best Supporting Actor) at that year’s Oscars. According to TSFX, an Australian educational resource center, Invictus “demonstrates the power forgiveness has to not only unite conflicting teams but to reconcile citizens of nations as well.”

Throughout her adult life, Zindzi had embarked on various humanitarian activities as well as participated in local politics while embracing and reinforcing the legacy her father lived. When Nelson Mandela died in 2013, Zindzi spoke at his funeral saying that she and her father repeatedly talked about how they wanted the world to embrace one thing–FORGIVENESS.

Along with her many other accomplishments, Zindzi is the author of Black As I Am, a collection of poems she wrote when she was 16, and a childrens’ book Grandad Mandela authored jointly by Zindzi and Nelson Mandela’s great-grandchildren. That books is included in the Bookroo: Children’s Book Experts list of the best 38 books about forgiveness.

Due to coronavirus lockdown requirements, only a handful of people were able to attend Zindzi’s funeral. South Africa, with 58 million people, is the African country hardest hit by coronavirus with more than 320,000 diagnosed cases and more than 4,600 deaths. Government projections estimate that the death toll could rise to 50,000 by the end of the year.

Learn more about forgiveness as practiced by Zindzi and Nelson Mandela:

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A New Film About Archbishop Desmond Tutu –THE FORGIVEN

ScreenAfrica, Johannesburg, South Africa – Two decades after the Truth and Reconciliation Commission addressed South Africa’s violent history of racial segregation, a new film returns to that time to grapple with the terrible truths of apartheid and its legacy.

a film by award-winning director Roland Joffé, is a fictionalised account of Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s efforts as the head of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to confront the atrocities of apartheid in an attempt to heal and unite South Africa.

“This is a subject that’s both social and political but also rather personal, because let’s be honest, we’ve all done things in our lives that we need forgiveness for, that we haven’t come to terms with,” Joffe says of the film. “We’re all prisoners of our history, whether it’s social, cultural or family.”

The drama follows Archbishop Tutu and his struggle – morally and intellectually – with a brutal murderer and member of a former apartheid-era hit squad over redemption and forgiveness.

According to the producers, the story is poignant and timely. “It reminds us of Archbishop Tutu’s gift of forgiveness and the healing it brings, and we are honoured to tell this story.”

“The film is a tribute to the remarkable and healing power of forgiveness and the outstanding compassion and courage of those who offered love and forgiveness as an antidote to hate and inhumanity.”
– Archbishop Desmond Tutu

Archbishop Tutu was honored with the 1984 Nobel Peace Prize for his opposition to South Africa’s brutal apartheid regime. His willingness to forgive those who tortured him, his nonviolent path to liberation, and his ability to articulate the suffering and expectations of South Africa’s oppressed masses made him a living symbol in the struggle for liberation.

The film will be released worldwide on Oct. 5, 2018. You can watch the film trailer at The Forgiven.

Archbishop Tutu, an Honorary Member of the International Forgiveness Institute Board of Directors, is the author of several books including:


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“Become My Son”: A South African Mother’s Response to the Man Who Murdered Both Her Son and Her Husband

What we can still learn from the South African experience

A guest blog by R. H. (Rusty) Foerger
Originally posted on his website
 More Enigma Than Dogma on June 20, 2018

Truth and Reconciliation is a profound process that takes longer, costs more, and is messier than one can imagine.  Here is one story from the South African experience:

After Apartheid ended in South Africa, a white police officer named Mr. Van der Boek was put on trial. The court found that he had come to a woman’s home, shot her son at point-blank range, and then burned the young man’s body on a fire while he and his officers partied nearby. The woman’s husband was killed by the same men, and his body also was burned.

Unfathomable Cruelty and Indignity

I can’t fathom the source or the energy needed to fuel such cruelty. But more unfathomable is the surviving woman’s response (the mother of the son and wife to the husband murdered and burned). What must she have thought and felt as she sat in the court room being burdened and re-traumatized by evidence?

A member of the South African Truth & Reconciliation Commission turned to her and asked, “So, what do you want? How should justice be done for this man?”

How is Justice to be done?

That’s the right question, isn’t it? What is justice; how can it be achieved; how does it look different from mere retribution and punishment? But the judge asked “how should justice be done for this man?” – not – “for this surviving woman.”

What would this wife & mother say in the face of such murderous cruelty that further caused indignity to her husband’s and son’s remains?

“I want three things,” the woman said confidently:

“I want first to be taken to the place where my husband’s body was burned so that I can gather up the dust and give his remains a decent burial. My husband and son were my only family.”

Become My Son!?

 “I want, secondly, for Mr. Van der Boek to become my son. I would like for him to come twice a month to the ghetto and spend a day with me so that I can pour out on him whatever love I still have.”

This is truly a breathtaking request. We can finish her sentence starting with “I would like for him to come twice a month to the ghetto and spend a day with me so that I . . .” – fill in the blank!

  • So I can get him to feel the crushing poverty I live with.
  • So I can have him feel the full void of my loss with no husband or son.
  • So I can have him feel every distrusting eye scrutinize him as the minority in our community.

But no; she finishes her request with “so that I can pour out on him whatever love I still have.” How much love does she still have?

And I could not find if Mr. Van der Boek could possibly receive such love. Did he come out, as she asked, twice a month to spend the day with her for the sole purpose of receiving what ever love she may still possess?

Finally, Forgiveness

“And finally, I would like Mr. Van der Boek to know that I offer him my forgiveness because Jesus Christ died to forgive. This was also the wish of my husband. And so, I would kindly ask someone to come to my side and lead me across the courtroom so that I can take Mr. Van der Boek in my arms, embrace him, and let him know that he is truly forgiven.”

From Michael Wakely, Can It Be True? A Personal Pilgrimage through Faith and Doubt.

Forgiveness cannot be demanded

I am not naive enough to think that it’s all good in South Africa, or that forgiveness should be given because it is expected, or that forgiveness should be given because it does as much to release the forgiver as it does the forgiven (for a contrasting view, readYou may free apartheid killers but you can’t force victims to forgive). But as the woman in the above noted story alluded, forgiveness is possible when we recognize our own status as forgiven people.

This blog is reposted with permission from R.H. (Rusty) Foerger.
Visit his website: More Enigma Than Dogma

Related blogs by Rusty Foerger:


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