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Ndaba Mandela Continues Iconic Grandfather’s Legacy

As the fervor surrounding the celebration of Nelson Mandela’s birthday centenary and programs held around the world acknowledging the humanitarianism of “Madiba” dies down, Ndaba Mandela is following the footsteps of his late grandfather.

Through the organization he co-founded, the Africa Rising Foundation, created in 2009 to assist South Africa’s youth — those finishing high school and the unemployed — in developing skills that will aid them in finding employment, Ndaba has set out to continue the humanitarian quest that his grandfather began. The foundation also provides support for entrepreneurship and addresses the problem of HIV/AIDS that is prevalent among the youth. According to the 35-year-old child of Mandela’s son Makgatho and the second-oldest grandson, up to 70 percent of South Africa’s youth are unemployed.

With a voice that replicates the timbre of his grandfather’s distinctive voice, Ndaba recently recalled his life with his grandfather that began when the elder took custody of the child, transferring him from an impoverished life in Soweto where he regularly ate rice and tomato sauce for sustenance, to living comfortably with Mandela in relative luxury.

“I just wanted to come home and play and have fun, like a normal kid,” Ndaba recalled in a recent conversation with Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden on the occasion of the publication of his memoir, “Going to the Mountain: Life Lessons from My Grandfather Nelson Mandela.”

Ndaba Mandela
Ndaba Mandela discusses his book at the Library of Congress. (Photo by Shawn Miller)

But instead, conversations with his grandfather “revolved around school, what I needed for school — books, uniform, sports stuff. How’s the report card looking?” he said. “In private, he was humble, forgiving and had a sense of humor.”

Ndaba Mandela’s memoir, published this summer, precedes his increased visibility on the global stage. Next week, he will appear at a town hall hosted by the Voice of America at the Newseum’s Knight Ridder Studio on Aug. 8 at 10 a.m. He will be joined by activists from Tunisia, Kenya, Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan moderated by Sarah Zaman of VOA’s Urdu service.

“The task at hand is not going to be achieved overnight,” the younger Mandela added. “It’s going to take two or three generations for us to be able to break down the misconceptions of Africa,” he said, noting that the foundation, as well as his work as the founder of the Mandela Project and co-founder and executive director of MM Afrique Investments, expands on his grandfather’s vision for his country and Africa as a whole.

“When I was a child, my story — my small world — was defined by poverty and apartheid. When I was 11 years old, I went to live with my grandfather, who helped me reclaim a different vision of the world and my place in it,” he wrote in the introduction to “Going to the Mountain,” which makes reference to a coming-of-age rite among the Xhosa ethnic group of South Africa, where Nelson Mandela was born into the chieftaincy.

“I believe Madiba’s words have the power to change your world too. His wisdom, amplified and embodied by you and me, still holds the potential to reshape the world we share, and the world our children will inherit.”

Nelson Mandela died in 2013 at age 95. Ndaba Mandela was tapped to ascend to the chieftaincy of Mvezo, Nelson Mandela’s homeland, but declined the position.

“I carry with me the values of my grandfather,” he added. “I am an African, and I know what it means to be African, and I’m proud of it.”

“Going to the Mountain: Life Lessons from My Grandfather Nelson Mandela” was published by Hachette Books in June. Registration for the town hall meeting at the Newseum on Aug. 8 is available at https://www.evite.com/event/00D95PU4WUQV5EVZUEPISAFZCO7IRI/rsvp?utm_campaign=send_sharable_link&utm_medium=sharable_invite&utm_source=NA.

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