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'Being Mandela:' Granddaughters dish out lives on show

By Sapa AP | 2013-02-08 08:32:27.0 | COMMENTS [ 60 ]

"But our grandparents have always said to us, this is our name too, and we can do what we think is best fitting with the name, as long as we treat it with respect and integrity."

The newest reality television show is in some ways like any other: mother and daughters, sibling rivalry, family gossip and talk of Big Grandpa, who is very strict but loves it when his great-grandchildren are around making a racket. But that's where the twist comes in: Big Grandpa is Nelson Mandela, the anti-apartheid legend.

"Being Mandela," a new series premiering Sunday on COZI TV, invites U.S. audiences into the lives of Zaziwe Dlamini-Manaway and Swati Dlamini, the fashionable, 30-something granddaughters of Mandela and Winnie Madikizela-Mandela. The 94-year-old former South African president, who recently was treated for a lung infection and had surgery to remove gallstones, does not appear in the series but his controversial ex-wife - "Big Mommy" to her grandchildren - does and seems to relish it.

If the Mandela clan seems like an odd subject for a reality show, the granddaughters make no apologies.

"We get asked this question a lot. Is this not going to tarnish the name and is this not going to be bad for the name?" Swati Dlamini said in an interview with The Associated Press in New York, where she and her sister were promoting the show. "But our grandparents have always said to us, this is our name too, and we can do what we think is best fitting with the name, as long as we treat it with respect and integrity."

The 13-episode first season follows the two women as they try to carry on the family legacy while juggling motherhood in Johannesburg.

The sisters, who spent most of their childhood in exile in the United States, make an emotional visit to the prison on Robben Island where their grandfather spent 18 of the 27 years he was imprisoned by South Africa's white-ruled government. Swati works on publishing the prison diaries that her grandmother wrote but now cannot bear to read.

The women, along with two brothers, also become the latest famous names to launch a fashion line, called "Long Walk to Freedom" in honor of their grandfather's autobiography. Their lives are special and glamorous and they know it. They hope that U.S. audiences - COZI TV is a new network launched by NBC Owned Television Stations - will see a vibrant and modern side of South Africa through their eyes.

They also bicker. The family, especially Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, loves to gossip about when Swati, the single mother of a 4-year-old daughter, is going to get married. Swati is furious when Zaziwe, despite being sworn to secrecy, blurts to their grandmother that her sister is dating someone. Zaziwe, 35, is married to an American businessman and has three children.

The sisters are the daughters of Zenani Mandela and Prince Thumbumuzi Dlamini of Swaziland. But parents everywhere will delight in seeing that being royal doesn't help them face toddler tantrums or get older children out of bed and into school uniforms.

Big Grandpa and Big Mommy are into the show, the sisters insisted.

Mandela will definitely watch it, they said. The Nobel Peace Prize winner apparently sort of likes reality TV.

"You'll be interested to know that he loves Toddlers and Tiarras," said Swati, laughing in reference to the TLC series about child beauty pageants.

"Because of the kids! He just loves children," Zaziwe added quickly.

The sisters said their grandfather is "happy and healthy."

Zaziwe showed a Feb. 2 photograph of Mandela at home, flashing his familiar smile, with his youngest great-grandchild on his lap - Zaziwe's one-year-old son. The picture is a rare public image of Mandela, whose last appearance on a major stage was during the 2010 World Cup soccer tournament in South Africa.

Mandela, who always lamented his long separation from his family during his imprisonment, is happiest these days when his offspring are running around being loud, his granddaughters said.

"We're in and out of the house. We're loud and he loves the noise," Zaziwe said.

The granddaughters say their grandfather - to the world, a symbol of integrity and magnanimity - holds the family to high standards and sets rules for when the children should be home and when dinner should start.

"He's a very strict person. Most people wouldn't think that but he really, really is," Zaziwe said.

The sisters are closer to Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, who divorced Mandela in 1997. Their adoring description of their grandmother as the doting matriarch stands in contrast with her checkered public image. Beloved by many poor urban blacks, Madikizela-Mandela also faces accusations that she and her bodyguard unit committed 18 killings in the 1980s. She denies it.

"She's fun. She never says no to us. I don't think I've ever heard my grandmother say no to us," Zaziwe said.

Still, the series shows Big Mommy clearly taking charge of the family. She marches into the hospital room where Zaziwe gave birth to Zen with a list of possible names for the baby boy.

The sisters say it was only after Mandela retired from public life that they started to get to know their grandfather.

"Our grandfather always told us that he belongs to the country and he's of service to the country and he doesn't belong to us as a family. And that's the sacrifice he's made for the country and that what he's told us as far as I can remember," Swati said.


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Ladies please!


2013-02-09 06:12:44.0 | 0 replies

Seriously the tv show is wasting everyones time, bet if dlamini was the ex president, the reality show would read "dlamini's granddaughters reality show", besides these spineless girls how are they do help better my economic life.....

2013-02-08 13:04:29.0 | 0 replies
2013-02-08 12:51:41.0 | 0 replies


pls go through those comments agains slllllloooooowwwwwwwlllllyyyyyy then you will realise we are not haters- R USING YOUR UNCLES SURNAME OR YOUR DAD`S SURNAME?? dont worry its obvious everyone knows thta your ussing your uncles
Little boy whether i choose to use my uncle, mother, father or cousins surname i would have every right to because i am one with them as long as they don't have a problem with it! My reasons would only be subject to their approval and not the ignorant overly opinionated masses.
They are Dlamini's and they are Mandela's grand daugthers... FACT!
Your sadist submissions will never change that.... HATER!

I see you still wet behind your ears .you do not understnad the importance of a surname in a man. give me a shout on your 21 birthday i will come to present a free lecture on the importance of fathers`surname.i will send you my number a day before your birthday cos i see u have a very short memory.

2013-02-08 12:51:36.0 | 0 replies

I don't support reality shows or any of this stupid shows, but people are just Jealous and over possessive of Mandela forgeting he has a family, his family has more right to him and his surname than all of us, SAns must just eat a chill pill and let Tata's spoiled brats enjoy thier grandfather.

2013-02-08 12:41:11.0 | 0 replies

Long Walk to Freedom fashion line ? WTF ? When you commercialise a great moral deed, you immediately cheapen it.

This is really really pathetic.

2013-02-08 12:28:08.0 | 0 replies

Ja ja ja we can all imagine how hard it must be to be a Mandela all that cash (undeclared ito tax) you guys have to collect just because you are a Mandela, MCWIM!!

2013-02-08 12:05:37.0 | 0 replies

Their parents where married which means they are Dlaminis, they should be talking about King Sobhuza not the Mandelas, when is this gonna end

2013-02-08 11:43:44.0 | 0 replies

Ah well............if they can ,why not? Good for them...still doesnt change the price of petrol..

2013-02-08 11:32:30.0 | 0 replies

"But our grandparents have always said to us, this is our name too, and we can do what we think is best fitting with the name, as long as we treat it with respect and integrity."
You are using to milk the cow........... jsut likeyour grandfather used his influence to "build a kitty" for you under the guise of "Children's Fund

2013-02-08 11:30:19.0 | 0 replies

So what if Mandela's grand grand kids want to capitalise on their grand grand dad's name? That their mothers were Mandela's and father's not Mandela's is neither here nor there. Everybody's making money and milage out of Mandela whilst they don't even carry Mandela's principles and fundamentals: case in point the ANC, City of Cape Town, Mandla Mandela, entrepreneurs, etc.

These kids can do whatever they deem fit with their grand dad's name, coz THEY CAN. FULL STOP.

2013-02-08 10:49:22.0 | 0 replies