The latest alleged love child of late former president Nelson Mandela’s says she will not have closure until she has visited the final Qunu resting place of the man she claims is her father.
The 70-year-old Lydia Mahakoe is the third woman to claim to be a Mandela love child. She says Mandela’s widow, Graça Machel, failed to allow her to meet the icon in 2008, while he was still in relative good health.
Another alleged love child, Onica Nyembezi Mothoa, 63, of Soshanguve north of Pretoria, also claimed in 2010 that all her attempts to meet the man she believed was her father had been in vain.
Also in 2010, it was reported that Mpho Pule, born in 1945, had spent almost 12 years battling to see the man she believed was her father. She reportedly died in 2009, just months before Mandela’s office wrote to say they were close to confirming her claim.
Mahakoe lives in a Midvaal suburb in the Vaal with her children, who are influential ANC community leaders. Mahakoe, still an ANC card-carrying member herself, had hoped to go for a paternity test to prove that Mandela was indeed her father, but that was thwarted, as Machel allegedly did not live up to her promise of facilitating a meeting between “father and daughter”.
She said the meeting between her and Machel was organised by ANC stalwart Agnes Msimang.
“I met Mrs Machel on November 8, 2008. I told her my story and she said I must not talk to anyone about this, but wait until she and Mr Mandela returned from holiday - because she said they were travelling. I informed her that I had also tried to meet Winnie [one of Mandela’s former wives] but could not, due to the tight security at her house. I told her my hope was for Winnie to assist in ensuring the paternity tests took place.
“But she warned me not to talk to anyone, including Winnie, about this. She said, ‘What if Winnie tampers with the results when the tests come out? I gave [Machel] my late mother’s picture, which she took with Mr Mandela while they were still young. However, the meeting did not take place as promised and she also did not return the pictures,” said Mahakoe.
Mahakoe said the pictures had been the only fond memories of Mandela and her mother that she had. Mahokoe wept and said: “She could have at least allowed me to see him [Mandela] so that he could have either accepted or rejected me in my face. I am now old and I don’t have peace. I can only find peace when I meet with his family and bond with them, so that they can accept and acknowledge me. I do not mind going for a sibling DNA test with his children. I also want to see his grave.”
Mahakoe added that her mother, Dorah Cheleki-Makgaka, had been a member of the ANC Women’s League (ANCWL) in Dube, Soweto, and was born in Sophiatown.
“I am informed that my mother’s parents blocked her from meeting Mandela because they said he was a playboy and taking advantage of women. When I was a baby, my mother would apparently tell her parents she was taking me to the clinic in order for him to see me. But when my grandparents found out, they stopped her from taking me to the clinic,” said Mahakoe.
Due to family disputes over mentioning Mandela’s name, she says, her mother kept this matter a secret. But Mahakoe says her mother’s best friend, also a former member of the ANCWL, “told me he was my father”.
“I said if my grandparents did not want him, I also do not want him. But as time went by, I could not find rest, as I began to dream about them (Mandela and Cheleki-Makgaka), hence I contacted all the people that I met with.”
In a bid to meet Mandela, she apparently met with a group including Machel, Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s wife Leah, and former Rivonia triallist and Robben Island political prisoner Andrew Mlangeni.
“I also went to Luthuli House and met with [Agnes] MaMsimang, who organised a meeting between me and Mrs Machel.”
Contacted for comment, Msimang claimed to have forgotten certain details about the matter, but did confirm that she knew about Mahakoe. She said: “Mandela is dead; why did she keep quiet for all these years? I organised a meeting between her and Graça, but if I can see my name in the newspaper, I will respond in a negative way. I am old and sick. I have just undergone an operation and I cannot remember anything.”
On April 29, Machel’s spokesperson, Vimla Naidoo, promised to obtain a response from Machel. However, on May 3, she told The Citizen: “Mrs Machel is out of the country and I cannot discuss such details with her while she is out of the country.”
Follow-up calls were made all month long to Machel’s office. Again, yesterday, several messages were left, but Naidoo had not responded at the time of going to print.
Tutu’s spokesperson, Roger Friedman, said: “We regret that there’s nothing Mrs Tutu can add to this story.”
Nelson Mandela Foundation director of communications Neeran Naidoo said yesterday: “There were similar stories before. As a foundation, we believe this a family matter because the foundation was established to look after Mandela’s legacy. Therefore we don’t get involved in family matters.”