Nelson Mandela's 'Fearless' Daughter Zindzi Mandela Dies at 59: 'Leader in Her Own Right'

The cause of her death has not yet been announced

Zindzi Mandela
Zindzi Mandela in 2014. Photo: Paras Griffin/WireImage

Zindzi Mandela, the daughter of South African anti-apartheid leaders Nelson Mandela and Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, has died. She was 59.

CNN reports that Zindzi — born in December 1960, the youngest of Nelson Mandela's daughters — died at a Johannesburg hospital early Monday morning, according to the South African Department of International Relations and Cooperation.

The department said it was still gathering information on the cause of her death and expected to release a detailed statement at a later time.

According to the Associated Press, Zindzi came to international fame in the mid-1980s when she read a letter from her famous father rejecting the government's offer to release him from prison if he denounced the violence that was carried out by his anti-apartheid movement, the Africa National Congress.

Zindzi reportedly read the statement at a packed public meeting that was broadcast around the world.

Before that, she had released poetry that was published in 1978 in the book Black as I Am while also appearing in publications including Somehow We Survive: An Anthology of South African Writing and Daughters of Africa.

Zindzi also studied law at the University of Cape Town, where she earned a bachelor's degree in 1985. More recently, she'd served as South Africa’s ambassador to Denmark since 2015.

Nelson Mandela and Zinzi Mandela
From left: Zindzi and Nelson Mandela in 2009. ALEXANDER JOE/AFP/Getty

The Nelson Mandela Foundation issued a statement on Zindzi's passing, writing, "We have been shocked to wake to the news of the untimely passing of Zindziswa Mandela ... Zindzi was someone we had come to know well and to love. She was our friend," they wrote, before adding that their "thoughts are with her family and friends."

According to a statement from the office of South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, which was obtained by CNN, he said that he was "deeply saddened" by Zindzi's death.

"I offer my deep condolences to the Mandela family as we mourn the passing of a fearless political activist who was a leader in her own right," Ramaphosa said. "Our sadness is compounded by this loss being visited upon us just days before the world marks the birthday of the great Nelson Mandela."

The Desmond & Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation also released a statement mourning Zindzi's death, adding that she was "regarded by many as a child of the nation." They said that her death means "South Africa loses an important generational link connecting our divided history to the promise of better, more inclusive, tomorrows."

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South Africa’s foreign affairs minister, Naledi Pandor, described Zindzi as a "heroine," per the AP.

"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," Pandor said in her own statement. "She served South Africa well."

According to the AP, Zindzi is survived by her husband and four children.

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