LONDON – The eldest daughter of Nelson Mandela on Monday told how her father spent a “wonderful” week surrounded by family before dying Thursday at 95.
Makaziwe Mandela told the BBC that the anti-apartheid icon was with his children and grandchildren and wife, Graca.
“Until the last moment he had us,” she told BBC journalist Komla Dumor.
“The children were there, the grandchildren were there, Graca was there, so we are always around him and even at the last moment, we were sitting with him on Thursday the whole day.”
She said the former South African president’s illness had been “a very long painful period,” but called the week before his death “a wonderful time.”
“When the doctors told us I think Thursday morning . . . that there was nothing that they could do . . . it was a most wonderful day for us because the grandchildren were there, we were there.”
Around 100 world leaders and 80,000 South Africans gathered Tuesday at a stadium in Johannesburg to bid farewell to Mandela.
Makaziwe admitted that being in the public gaze had made private grieving difficult.
She hopes her father will be remembered for promoting spiritual as well as political freedom.
“He talks about the fact that it takes courage to forgive. Forgiveness is a very difficult thing,” she said. “I think he knew that if he didn’t forgive, he would be forever imprisoned spiritually. The lesson we can take from his life is to have the courage to forgive other people.
“None of us are born hating another — we are taught to hate and if you can teach a human being to hate you can also teach a human being to love, to embrace and to forgive,” she said.
On a more personal note, Makaziwe revealed that she had not always found her father easy to confide in.
“My father is awkward with his emotions, people don’t understand that,” she explained.
“He couldn’t express his emotions. When it came closer to the heart, he would say ‘oh God what am I doing’ and shut down.”