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Graca Machel and Nelson Mandela Marriage Profile

A Man Who Believed in Forgiveness

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Photo: Daniel Berehulak / Getty Images

Nelson Mandela and Graca Machel on August 29, 2007 in London, England.

Photo: Daniel Berehulak / Getty Images

For Nelson Mandela, the third time was the charm in his marriage to Graca Machel. Graca is not only the first African woman to become a British dame, she is also the only woman to hold the title of "first lady" to two presidents from two different African nations. Here is information about their marriage.

News Updates:

6/11/2010: Nelson Mandela's great-granddaughter, Zenani Mandela, died in a car crash. She was 13 years old and on the way home after attending the World Cup soccer tournament kick-off concert in Soweto.
 

Born:

Nelson Mandela aka Rolihlahla Dalibhunga Mandela: July 18, 1918 in the province of Transkei, South Africa.
 

Graca Simbine Machel: October 17, 1945 in Incadine, Gaza, Mozambique.

Died:

Nelson: On December 5, 2013, Nelson Mandela died at the age of 95.

Wedding Date:

Nelson and Graça were married on July 18, 1998, his eightieth birthday, in the presence of family, sixteen friends, and one photographer.
"They were married in the new house [in Houghton], Mandela in a gold-patterned open shirt, Graca wearing a long white dress with wide puffed sleeves, Elizabethan-style. They were blessed beforehand by the Chief Rabbi, and also by the Muslim Sheikh Nazim Mohammed and the Hindu Mrs. Nanachene. They were married by a methodist Bishop, Myume Dandala -- since they had both been brought up as Methodists -- assisted by Desmond Tutu ..."
Source: Anthony Sampson. Mandela: The Authorized Biography. 2000. pg. 543.

The wedding reception for Nelson and Graca was combined with Nelson's birthday party at the Gallagher Convention Centre. There were 2000 guests including Michael Jackson, Danny Glover, and Stevie Wonder.

Nelson and Graca honeymooned in Argentina and Brazil and later had a private honeymoon in Qunu.

Children:

Nelson had four children with Evelyn Mase.
  • Madiba Thembekile (Thembi) Mandela: Born in 1946. Thembi died in July 1969 in a car crash.
  • Makaziwe Mandela I: Born in 1947. She died after 9 months in 1948.
  • Makgatho Lewanika Mandela: Born in 1950. Makgatho was an attorney. He died of Aids in January 2005.
  • Makaziwe Mandela II: Born in 1953.
Nelson: "In our culture, to give a new child the name of a deceased child is considered a way of honoring the earlier child's memory and retaining a mystical attachment to the child who left too soon."
Source: Nelson Mandela. Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela. Paperback edition 1995. pg. 206.
Nelson had two children with Winnie Madikizela.
  • Zenani Mandela: Born abt. 1959. Zenani married Prince Thumbumuzi Dlamini in 1973. They reside in Boston.
  • Zindziswa Mandela: Born in 1960.
Graca has two children, daughter Jozina and son Malnga. She is step-mother to her first husband's five children.

Occupations:

Nelson: Former President of South Africa, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993, attorney, former President of African national Congress, author, speaker, and anti-apartheid activist.

Graca: Chairperson of the National Organization of Children of Mozambique, President of the Foundation of Community Development, Minister for Education and Culture in Mozambique, attorney, children's advocate, trained guerrilla, and school teacher.

Residence:

Graca and Nelson live in rural South Africa.

Previous Marriages:

Nelson had two previous marriages:
"Evelyn Mandela gives her husband an ultimatum to choose between her or the ANC. She is also distressed about rumours that Mandela has relations with other women. In December, while Mandela is imprisoned for two weeks, she moves out of their home. He finds the house empty when he is released on bail." Source: "South African History Online. SAHistory.org.za. 06/1955.
  • Evelyn Ntoko Mase: Evelyn was born in 1922 in Transkei, South Africa. Evelyn was a nursing student living in Johannesburg at the time of their marriage. Nelson and Evelyn were married on July 15, 1944 in a civil ceremony at the Native Commissioner's Court in Johannesburg. The marriage ended in 1957 due to irreconcilable differences. Evelyn remarried at the age of seventy-seven. She died in 2004 at the age of 82 from a respiratory illness. She was buried in Johannesburg. Nelson and Graca attended her funeral as well as Winnie.
  • Nomzamo Winnie Madikizela: Winnie, a social worker, and Nelson met during his treason trial. They married on June 14, 1958 in Bizana. Their wedding at a local church was attended by a few close friends and family, followed by a celebration later at the home of Winnie's eldest brother. Winnie and Nelson didn't have a honeymoon. The couple separated in April 1992 and later divorced in March 1996.
  • Source: "Nelson's Letters to Winnie." PBS.org.
Graca was previously married to Mozambique's former president, Samora Machel. They were married in September 1975. Their marriage lasted until his death in a plane crash on October 19, 1986.

Quotes About Nelson Mandela's Marriages

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