the last surviving
child of Mandela's
In an exclusive interview with the Sunday Mirror, 59-year-old Maki revealed how the family gathered around the South African hero’s bedside to say their goodbyes to the great man.
Biting back tears, Maki said the 95-year-old former President of South Africa was as inspirational facing death as he had been in life.
She revealed he astonished doctors in the way he battled his illness to the end with all the tenacity and determination he showed as a freedom fighter.
“They said they had never had a patient like him in their lives,” said proud Maki. “He was a medical wonder.”
But then came the moment the world lost an icon… and she lost a father.
“It wasn’t like a light going out in the room but I knew he was going,” Maki said from her Johannesburg home.
“I felt him slipping away in front of me early in the morning, I felt I was losing my loved one. I was so sad and watched my father die in front of my eyes.
“We knew he would die on Thursday night – the doctors knew. They took us through it, and he slowly deteriorated. I was there as he slipped away.”
The head of the Mandela clan and his eldest child, Maki said Mandela’s third wife Graca Machel and his other children were there at his home in Houghton, a northern suburb of Johannesburg, as he neared the end.
He had been admitted into intensive care in June and never recovered.
Maki said: “I felt very, very sad when he died because I saw my father suffering in the past months. It’s not nice to lose a parent but my father has been sick for a whole year.
“He had moments of being calm and peaceful but moments in pain, and to see such a great man as he was, was very painful for us.
“I’m not just talking about a great man in terms of the political figure everyone talks about. I mean by birth he was royalty, and he carried himself as royalty,
“The team of highly trained medical specialists looking after him have been amazed by him.”
Maki, who has been a spokesperson for the family and a constant at her father’s bedside, said he was an inspiration to her during his final few months of ill-health.
She said: “What my dad’s long sickness has taught me is humility, patience, tolerance, and a lot of love.
“There were many times during the year when we thought, ‘this is the end’ and the doctors told us it was the end.
“But he wasn’t just a wonder as a human being, he was a medical wonder, he defied them. You are helpless to do anything. All you can do is be there for him.”
Maki’s mother Evelyn Mase, a nurse and Mandela’s first wife, died in 2004 aged 81. They had three other children together.
Maki will have a leading role at the state funeral on Sunday, which will be followed by a private burial in his home town of Qunu, Eastern Cape.
Now she is preparing for the final farewell to her father. She said: “I went through this with my brother but he wasn’t sick for long, only six weeks, and even that was terrible for me.
“I hoped and prayed it would never happen to me again. But my father was such a fighter.
“I am an orphan now, in the physical world, but in the spiritual world I believe they’re there for me and are much more powerful now than they were in the physical realm. I don’t feel alone at all. I am surrounded by so much love and caring, I am blessed.”
Messages of condolence and grief have poured in from around the globe from world leaders, royalty and the millions of ordinary people who were touched by Mandela’s extraordinary life. Maki said: “I’m almost 60 years old now and I’ve got used to the fact that Nelson wasn’t just my father.
“Everyone claims him, but in essence he only had six children in his life, not these global millions.
“Those are the six children who truly carry his DNA and genes.
“The world can claim him as Mandela, the global icon – that’s what they relate to – but it’s us children who are carrying his DNA, and who claim everything in the end, the good, bad and the ugly.
to the end
“For us it’s not about choice, we are part of his progeny, not for a few hours a day but for ever, so it’s different.
“There’s the joy of being a Mandela, but for us there’s been a lot of pain in that he was there, but not there for us.
“I’m the oldest child by default. I wasn’t always the oldest child. Now I am and the legacy rests with me.”
Now her father is gone, she is the only child left from the first of his three marriages.
“But I have wonderful children, nephews and nieces,” she said. “So the next generation of the Mandelas is here.
“I lost my mother seven years ago on the eve of my 50th birthday, and I don’t actually believe that my mother has died.
“To me she has gone to an invisible world that I don’t fully understand and now my father is there too.
“Two years after her death, my brother died of Aids and now I’m the only one left from my mother – so I know what death is. It comes to us all and one has to come to terms with the fact that we’re not on this earth for ever.”
And finally, displaying her legendary father’s unrelenting zest for life, she added: “You have to have a positive outlook and enjoy what life has to give you.”
Yesterday the family gave a statement to describe how they have “have lost a great man, a son of the soil”.
Issued through Lt Gen Temba Templeton Matanzima, it said: “The pillar of the royal Mandela family is no more with us physically, but his spirit is still with us.
“We have lost a great man, a son of the soil whose greatness in our family was in the simplicity of his nature in our midst. A caring family leader who made time for all. On that score we will miss him dearly.”