Nelson Mandela's grandson speaks

NEIL MCMAHON
Last updated 14:46 18/07/2013
nelson mandela
MIKE HUTCHINGS/ Reuters
INSPIRATION: Former South African president Nelson Mandela is an inspiration to many.

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As the world marks Nelson Mandela's 95th birthday, one of his grandsons says the clan is overjoyed at the iconic leader's surprise hospital fightback.

In an exclusive interview with Fairfax Media today, Ndaba Mandela promised the family had united to put bitter feuding behind it as it contemplated a future without the patriarch.

Ndaba described his grandfather's rally in recent days, a revival that has even enabled him to watch television - a remarkable turnaround for a man who over recent weeks appeared unlikely to reach the birthday milestone (Mandela Day, as July 18 was proclaimed by the United Nations in 2009.)

"He's the same [as on the weekend]," Ndaba said of his grandfather's condition.

"I last saw him on Saturday and he's still critical but stable. But what I can say is that he is a lot more responsive. And what I mean is he is a little bit more alert, he is a little bit more aware, his movement's a little bit stronger, he's able to look around the room and that kind of thing."

Asked if his grandfather could speak, however, Ndaba replied: "No, not really."

He said it was possible his grandfather was now aware of the outpouring of concern from around the world.

"I'm not sure if he's aware of the world's love but he is definitely aware of the family love.

"I know that he recently started watching TV last week. I wasn't there when he started watching TV so I'm not sure if he saw the news and saw something that showed how people were feeling and reacting.

"So maybe he is aware now."

Of feuding within the Mandela clan - including his brother Mandla fighting relatives in court over the burial place of three of Nelson Mandela's deceased children - Ndaba told Fairfax Media the bitterness was in the past. "I am 100 per cent confident, yes ... the majority of our family is united, that's the most important thing. Not everybody 100 per cent will be, but the majority is and that's a good thing."

He also sent a conciliatory but stern message to his estranged brother over the dispute.

"I can definitely forgive him for what he did. He is my brother, he will always be my brother, that will never change. [But] I hope he understands what he has done, that it really disturbed us and I hope that he is apologetic in his heart."

Ndaba said this year's Mandela Day was a turning point as the event began to grow in international stature. The day is built around the 67 Minutes initiative - named in honour of Nelson's 67 years of public service - with people encouraged to devote 67 minutes to an activity helping others.

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"We are trying to make sure this is not just Mandela Day in South Africa but that it becomes really a Nelson Mandela international day celebrated by countries across the world."

Ndaba advised Australians to pay their 67-minute tribute in whatever way they saw fit.

"It can be anything that benefits somebody other than yourself."

"It could be going into an impoverished community and painting walls and refurbishing schools and playgrounds. Or it could be a musician giving a 67-minute free show."

"Or a coffee shop giving away 67 cups of coffee. Whatever they feel they want to give back to other people, that's what they should do, with an open heart."

Neil McMahon covered the Mandela years in South Africa following Mandela's release from prison in 1990 until the end of his presidency in 1999.

- Sydney Morning Herald

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