Nelson Mandela’s eldest grand-daughter, Ndileka Mandela, daughter of his first son, Thembekile Mandela, has proudly announced the launch of her newly-found foundation, the Thembekile Mandela Foundation.
Thembekile was Nelson Mandela’s first son from his first wife, Evelyn. He died in a car accident while Nelson Mandela was in prison, and Ndikela was little over four-years-old. The apartheid government denied Nelson Mandela permission to attend his son’s funeral.
At a recent media launch at Mandela House, Ndileka explained how her grandfather had given his legacy to the entire world and to South Africans. When 46664 was being launched he said that it is now in our hands to make a difference. She added that Thembekile Mandela Foundation is her way of making a difference.
When the Nelson Mandela Foundation was launched in 1999 it had three pillars: education, health and HIV/Aids. Nelson Mandela would campaign to raise funds to build clinics and schools but unfortunately when he resigned some of the programs were neglected or discontinued. The is still doing some incredible work through these programs, especially in terms of health, education and feeding programs but the sad reality is the infrastructures have fallen away.
It is against this background that Ndileka has decided to dedicate her life in continuing the programs that her grandfather did. She decided it was befitting to name the foundation the Thembekile Mandela Foundation because her father never had time to spend with his father.
There’s a mental disconnect when having a conversation with Ndileka Mandela whenever she refers to “my Grandfather” because I find myself trying to join the dots to remember who her grandfather is. Nelson Mandela is one man in this world who nobody ever needs reminding of but we all know him as Mandela, Madiba or Tata. I’m reminded that while the world shares his legacy, it’s a legacy that his family also shared with the world. Ndileka is amused, but understands me, when I explain how surreal it feels to be talking to someone who called Nelson Mandela “Grandfather”.
Ndileka continues in her own words:
“You know when you learn about my father he is just about a smidge, that he was a son that he lost when he was in prison at the age of 24. And I felt it very strongly that I need to keep his memory alive. As his firstborn child it is my duty and my birthright to continue and to make sure that he is never forgotten because these are the sacrifices that my grandfather went through when he was in prison.
“This Foundation will look at two pillars, but the slant is that of rural development as I feel strongly that in the rural areas there is a lot that needs to be done and through the Foundation I will be able to do that in the sectors of health and education, also of youth development.
“As Leanne (Morning Live Presenter: Leanne Manas) has said earlier on this came through when I – you know in 2012, I adopted Clarkebury (Senior Secondary School in the Eastern Cape) through a friend of mine that said your grandfather came to this school, Clarkebury, and it is a school that has actually moulded some of our best minds.
“A B Xuma who was one of the founding fathers of the ANC went to Clarkebury, granddad went to Clarkebury. I also had a brief stint with Clarkebury. And Clarkebury is a school, it is built on the land that was donated actually by my great-great grandfather Ngubengcuka and you can see that as much as he was not educated, my great-great grandfather Ngubengcuka had a vision and he was forward thinking by donating the land to missionaries who then built a church and a school, and there was a missionary there.
“When I went to the school in 2012 just shortly after granddad’s birthday, I went with quite a few businessmen on a fact-finding mission to see what it is that Clarkebury needed. When we went there we found that the Minister of Basic Education was going to be building 12 new classrooms for the school because Clarkebury services a whole lot of other villages that are surrounding it. But the precinct where granddad used to go it was going to be done into a multipurpose centre where there would be a woodwork room, a science laboratory, a sewing room.
“Because I had gone there with the SABS they had said because we are in science and technology we will donate all the equipment for the science laboratory and equip it (with) everything, and that was handed (over) last year on Women’s Day.
“They have done what they promised to do, but over and above that, even when I went there in 2012, the school principal Mr Ayanda Matshayana said to me ‘you know Ndileka we are servicing a lot of schools and because it is not accessible, children have to walk far and wide to come to this school, can you help assist us in building a hostel? There are two hostels that are there. Can you help us to raise funds to refurbish these hostels to see that these children can stay in a safe place?’
“I said ‘Ayanda I will certainly help you’. “
“But then granddad fell ill, seriously ill end of 2012 and the whole of 2013 my grandfather was sick and I decided that I will spend all the time by his bedside because I knew his time was limited and because of my background as a nurse I was the interface between the family and the medical team. And then when granddad passed I knew I would then carry the gauntlet going forward of making sure that Clarkebury realises the hostel that I had promised them.
“Earlier this year Ayanda calls me and says ‘Ndileka you know we’ve achieved the 90% pass rate.’
“This is a school that this principal had taken in 2008, that had a 16% pass rate, but through his dedicated work with a team of teachers that are dedicated to education, he has managed to raise the pass rate to 90%.
“And he said ‘look I want to show you something. I know that you have said to me that you will raise funds to build a hostel. Come I want to show you something.’
“He showed me a room no bigger than this marquee that we are standing under right now where matric students were sleeping on mattresses on the floor, they had their suitcases packed against the wall. It was really, really sad. It brought tears to my eyes that the only crime that these children have committed is that they want education and for that they don’t have a place to stay.
“I then decided, I called Sophie and I said ‘the plight of these children, I need to flight it. Please, whatever programme you can get me on at SABC please get me to that programme because I want to show the plight of these children so that I can appeal to Business South Africa to assist them.’
“Lo and Behold, Leanne hosted me on her programme and one of the people that are here, Myles, happened to be watching on that day and he then called me. At the end of the programme Leanne said to me ‘Ndileka when people say they want to assist what do we do, what number do we give them?’ I said ‘Leanne, I don’t know, I don’t have a structure, but all I know is that I need to do this and it is something that has been delayed because I had wanted to do it in 2012.’“
“When Myles saw this he said ‘okay Ndileka we will assist you together with the group of companies that I work with. We will assist you to set up the structures and make sure that you have a structure’ which is what brings us here today.
“And you know granddad always used to say that it is through education that the daughter of a peasant can become a doctor one day, the son of a farmworker can become the owner of that farm. And for me, that is one thing that I have taken from him – that a person needs to live more than what they; to achieve more in life and live for the better good.
“And just to give a bit of a background as to why am I doing this now?
“I feel it is prudent that you know whenever I would ask granddad about dad his face would shut down completely. It is something that I came to realise that it is a pain that he had had. For 44 years he carried this pain of losing a son that he was never able to bury.
“And the memories; because for me dad died at the age of four I wanted to find out what type of a young man he was and granddad would refuse to talk about it. He would shut down completely. And upon reading the letters that granddad wrote to my mother shortly after my father died, around August, he pours out his pain to a different many people of how the loss of my father affected him.
“I think it just about destroyed him and I’ve come to realise now that the memories he had with my father we so sacred that he could not even share them with me. And it is something that I have come to understand, painful as that is.
“That is why I am through the foundation, I am giving Thembe – they used to call him Styles because of how he used to dress – I am giving him a face (so) that he is not just a smidge in my grandfather’s life. This was his firstborn child. This is the son that actually made him realise that he is a grandfather through me and my sister.
“There is no reason why his memory should die when he had two children – myself and my sister – and I have decided to carry that mantle, but do good with that name and I am asking Business South Africa to assist, corporates to assist these children that need pride.
“It is not just going to end at Clarkebury, but Clarkebury is the start point because of the history that it has in my family and the history that it has in the struggle, in the liberation struggle.”
The future of the Thembekile will begin with Clarkebury, but it won’t end there. Ndileka Mandela has grand plans to continue building upon both her father’s and her grandfather’s legacy.
Obviously business can donate money but what about the small man who wants to help in his own way but thinks he can’t. It doesn’t matter what you do: if you manufacture blankets, bedding or cloths, donate some. If you’re in the food or hospitality industry, donate stock, even if you’re manufacturing computers or cars, donate something. It doesn’t have to be a magnificent public gesture because even a small donation will be appreciated by the beneficiaries of the Thembekile Mandela Foundation.