Anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela’s granddaughter has died, aged 43, after documenting her valiant battle with cancer.
Zoleka Mandela had beaten breast cancer but was later diagnosed with secondary cancer that spread throughout her body.
She was admitted to hospital last Monday (South African time) for ongoing treatment for metastatic tumours in the hip, liver, lung, pelvis, brain and spinal cord.
“Recent scans revealed significant disease progression including fibrosis in the lungs as well as several emboli,” said a final post on her Instagram page.
“Zoleka passed away on the evening of Monday, September 25th, surrounded by friends and family.
“Our sincerest gratitude to the medical team that took care of her.”
Zoleka grew up in the shadow of her Nobel prize-winning grandfather and her early years were marked by drug addiction, a suicide attempt and losing two children.
She re-emerged in later years to embrace the legacy of South Africa’s first black president.
The Nelson Mandela Foundation issued a statement mourning the loss of “a beloved grandchild of Mum Winnie and Madiba”.
The foundation said Zoleka was “a tireless activist for healthcare and justice”.
“Her work in raising awareness about cancer prevention and her unwavering commitment to breaking down the stigma surrounding the disease will continue to inspire us all.”
Zoleka’s activism also included road safety campaigns after losing her daughter Zenani, 13, in a car crash in 2010. Zenani’s funeral was one of Nelson Mandela’s last public appearances.
‘You don’t get to choose’
Zoleka posted regularly about her cancer battle, in March reminding her followers: “You don’t get to choose how you’re going to die. Or when. But you can decide how you’re going to live now” – quoting another American activist Joan Baez.
In August she wrote: “I’m dying … I don’t want to die.”
“What do I tell my children? How do I tell them that this time around, I may not get to live my life as a survivor? How do I tell them everything will be okay when it’s not?”
In recent weeks Zoleka had been undergoing chemotherapy and spoke of her exhaustion as she posted photos of herself in bed.
At other times she posed in a variety of colourful wigs after losing all her hair during treatment.
In another post, she thanked everyone who had helped during this “challenging and unbearable time” by cooking sumptuous meals for the family.
“My life is completely blessed with some of the most outstanding people (you’ve placed in my life), who continuously give of themselves so selflessly, freely and genuinely!!!
“Thank you, thank you and thank you from the bottom of my heart, right to the very top!!!”