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Nelson Mandela: Daughters told of father’s death during film honoring his life

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Nelson Mandela died at the age of 95 surrounded by his family. Three wives, six children, 17 grandchildren, and 14 great-grandchildren, most of whom are alive, are joining the world in mourning an extraordinary man whose life was documented and honored in the film “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom.” And it was during the London premiere of the film honoring Nelson Mandela’s life that his two daughters, Zindzi and Zenani, learned about their father’s death, reported the Mirror on Dec. 5, 2013.

Nelson Mandela died of a lung infection on Dec. 5 at his home in Houghton, Johannesburg. Nelson Mandela was born as Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela on July 18, 1918.

According to a genealogy table provided by the Nelson Mandela Foundation, Nelson Mandela had three wives:

  • 1944 Married Evelyn Ntoko Mase (born 1922, died April 30, 2004) – Divorced March 19, 1958
  • June 14, 1958 Married Winifred Nomzamo Zanyiwe Madikizela (born 1936) – Divorced March 19, 1996
  • July 18, 1998 Married Graça Machel (born 1945)

Nelson Mandela’s six children, four with Evelyn Mase and two with Winnie Mandela, include:

  1. Madiba Thembekile Mandela (born 1945, died July 13, 1969 aged 24)
  2. Makaziwe Mandela (died 1948 aged nine months)
  3. Magkatho Lewanika Mandela (born 1950, died January 6, 2005 aged 55)
  4. Pumla Makaziwe Mandela (born 1954)
  5. Zenani Dlamini (born 1959)
  6. Zindzi Mandela (born 1960)

Nelson Mandela’s two youngest daughters, Zindzi and Zenani, were in London for the premiere of “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom.” They had just met the cast and the crew of the film honoring their father’s life and had returned to their London hotel when they received the tragic phone call that their father had passed away.

Since they had already seen the film about their father's life and had not intended to see it again, they “insisted to producers that the movie should not be interrupted and that guests, including Prince William and Kate, should watch ‘Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom’ to the end as planned.”

Unlike Nelson Mandela’s daughters, the audience did not know that the man whose life they were watching on screen had passed away. “So the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge sat through the Leicester Square premiere, along with scores of Mandela’s friends and supporters and watched in full the incredible life story of the iconic leader.”

When the film was finished and the credits were rolling, producer Anant Singh, who Nelson Mandela had trusted to begin making the biopic 16 years ago, got up on stage and with actor Idris Elba (who played Nelson Mandela) next to him, announced that “it is with great sadness that President Zuma has recently announced the passing of Mandela.”

“Cries of disbelief, sobs and a shocked silence followed as the audience struggled to come to terms with the devastating news.”

Prince William and Kate, who had been told about Nelson Mandela’s death by their aides prior to the announcement in the movie theater, joined Anant Singh and Idris Elba in sharing their grief.

After a one-minute silence honoring Nelson Mandela, Prince William appeared “with a solemn-looking wife Kate by his side” at the top of the stairs of the Odeon cinema foyer in Leicester Square and expressed his own grief.

“Slowly and quietly he told reporters: ‘I just wanted to say it’s extremely sad and tragic news.We were just reminded what an extraordinary and inspiring man Nelson Mandela was. My thoughts and prayers are with him and his family. It’s very sad’.”

While most of the audience members left with a heavy heart and tears in their eyes, Nelson Mandela’s two daughters were able to mourn the death of their father in their London hotel room.

Most of the cast members of “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom” were too upset to speak. Their originally planned after-show party was cancelled.

Naomie Harris, who played Mandela’s wife Winnie in the film, left the theater slowly, head down and close to tears.

However, Idris Elba, who played Nelson Mandela, put into words what most people felt in their hearts.

‘’What an honor it was to step into the shoes of Nelson Mandela and portray a man who defied odds, broke down barriers, and championed human rights before the eyes of the world. My thoughts and prayers are with his family. I am stunned at this very moment, in mourning with the rest of the world and Madiba’s family. We have lost one of the greatest human beings to have walked this earth, I only feel honoured to be associated with him. He is in a better place now.”

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