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To Zeni Mandela (front)

Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory

Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory

The item consists of a letter of 2 pages written by Mandela to his daughter, Zenani on the occasion of her birthday.

Page 1 of a 2 page letter written by Mandela to his daughter, Zenani on the occasion of her birthday.

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  • Title: To Zeni Mandela (front)
  • Date: 1971-03-01
  • Transcript: March 1, 1971 My Darling, Friday the 5th February this year was your 12th birthday and in January I sent you a card containing my congratulations and good wishes. Did you get it? Again I say: many happy returns. It is not easy for me to believe that our Zeni, who was only a baby when I last saw her, is now a big girl in Standard V at a boarding school, and doing subjects I never learnt at school, like French, Physical Science and Maths. I still remember clearly the night when you were born in 1959. On February 4th that year I returned home very late and found Mummy highly restless. I rushed for the late Aunt Phyllis Mzaidume, and the two of us drove Mummy to Baragwanath Hospital. There was a remarkable coincidence. Aunt Phyllis herself was born on 5th February and on our way to Bara she hoped you would be born on the same date, and that is exactly what happened. When she heard of the news of your arrival, she was as happy as if she had created you. Your birth was a great relief to us. Only three months before this, Mummy had spent fifteen days in jail under circumstances that were dangerous for a person in her condition. We did not know what harm might have been done to you and to her health, and were happy indeed to be blessed with a healthy and lovely daughter. Do you understand that you were nearly born in prison? Not many people have had your experience of having been in jail before they were born. You were only 25 months old when I left home and, though I met you frequently thereafter until January 1962 when I left the country for a short period, we never lived together again. You will probably not remember an incident that moved me very much at the time and about which I never like to think. Towards the end of 1961 you were brought to the house of a friend and I was already waiting when you came. I was wearing no jacket or hat. I took you into my arms and for about ten minutes we hugged, and kissed and talked. Then suddenly you seemed to have remembered something. You pushed me aside and started searching the room. In a corner you found the rest of my clothing. After collecting it, you gave it to me and asked me to go home. You held my hand for quite some time, pulling desperately and begging me to return. It was a difficult moment for both of us. You felt I had deserted you and Mummy, and your request was a reasonable one. It was similar to the note that you added to Mummy’s letter of the 3rd December 1965 where you said: “Will you come home next year. My mother will fetch you with her car.” Your age in 1961 made it difficult for me to explain my conduct to you, and the worried expression that I saw in your face
  • Type: Letter
  • Reference code: ZA COM NMPP-PC-2009/6-V2.1, 5
  • Finding aids: Finding aid available
  • Extent and Medium: 2 handwritten pages, foolscap size, 1 handwritten page, foolscap size
  • Conditions governing reproduction: Copyright held by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory
  • Conditions governing access: Access by permission of the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory
  • Collection: Personal Letters

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