Ndaba Mandela, grandson of Nelson Mandela, provided insights on what it was like to be reared by his iconic grandfather during his recent appearance at Norfolk State University. The Mandela event served as NSU’s kick-off of its Black History Month celebration.
Ndaba Mandela is currently the co-founder and chairman of the Mandela Institute for Humanity and co-founder and co-chairman of the Africa Rising Foundation, an organization dedicated to promoting a positive image of Africa around the world and to increasing its potential for growth in the areas of education, employment and international corporate alliances for profit and partnership. Ndaba Mandela also serves as an executive director of UN AIDS, which seeks to end discrimination around HIV/AIDS, a disease that took the lives of both his parents.
During his lifetime, Nelson Mandela went from a civil rights lawyer to an anti-apartheid activist, to a freedom fighter to a prisoner, to the first democratically elected Black president of South Africa who helped dismantle apartheid and reshape the country.
However, Ndaba Mandela did not meet his grandfather until he was seven years old and went to live with him at 11–after Nelson Mandela had been released from prison. The elder Mandela’s guidance and lessons set a fire and passion within Ndaba, which has fueled his mission as an adult.
The result is a man who speaks candidly, passionately and humorously on a host of subjects.
When Ndaba Mandela was asked if he gives himself credit for being the man that he is today, he responded: “I have to give credit to those who made me the man I am, and that was my grandfather. He took me in, and he was able to not only teach me his values, but he was also able to impart those values on to me. And so those became my own.”
Just like his grandfather before him, Ndaba Mandela sees the future in today’s generation and the generations to come. He wants them to see and understand that they have power, individually and collectively.
“Young people today try to run away from politics,” Ndaba Mandela said. “Actually, they should be running towards politics. It’s not just about voting for the President. It’s also voting for the mayor, for the district attorneys to the legislators because those people control the budgets.” He said to applause.
Every generation has to fight for their rights, Ndaba pointed out, saying that many people fought and died for the right to vote.
On the topic of “Black Lives Matter,” Ndaba Mandela was emphatic. “You hear people say that all lives matter, but it’s not about all lives. Not all lives were persecuted and lynched. Don’t let them downplay our movement,” he stated. “It’s not even a question or even a debate. You cannot equate All Lives Matter to Black Lives Matter. Black Lives Matter. Full stop. Exclamation mark. That’s the end of it.”
He also firmly believes that when his grandfather announced to the world that his son and Ndaba’s father died of HIV/AIDS. It was the first time that a prominent family in South Africa had disclosed the actual cause of death of a loved one. “The stigma had a huge effect on our people,” Ndaba Mandela said. “That really began the process of breaking down the stigma. People were dying more because of the stigma than the disease itself.”
Speaking about his grandfather’s lifelong fight to take down apartheid, Ndaba Mandela told the audience that point of view is very important. Explaining that Nelson Mandela was once on the U.S. terrorist watch list—from the mid-’80s until 2008—even though he had been released from prison in 1990 and served as South Africa’s president from 1994-1999. “Actually, he was a freedom fighter,” Ndaba Mandela said. “You have to ask yourself, who is telling the story? Why are they telling that story? What are the intentions? What are the objectives?”
As his talk came to an end, Ndaba Mandela asked the audience to stand and instructed them to do a few chants and a motivational recitation.
“A luta continua,” he said – The struggle continues.