Nelson Mandela’s granddaughter, Zoleka Mandela, died Monday afternoon at the age of 43 after a battle with cancer, her family announced.
“We mourn the loss of a beloved grandson of Mama Winnie and Madiba and a friend of the Foundation,” Nelson Mandela Foundation wrote about the death of Zoleka Mandela.
“Zoleka was a tireless activist for health and justice,” the statement said. “Her work to raise awareness about cancer prevention and her unwavering commitment to breaking down the stigma surrounding the disease will continue to inspire us all.”
“Our thoughts are with her family and friends at this most difficult time,” he added. “Hamba, call Zoleka, we will remember you.”
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Zoleka Mandela was admitted to hospital on September 18 for ongoing treatment for metastatic cancer that had spread to her brain, lungs, liver and spinal cord, among other parts of her body, the family announced in an Instagram post.
Recent scans showed “significant” progression, including several emboli – or blood clots – in her lungs. She eventually died surrounded by family and friends.
Her family released the statement with the words “Peace. Passion. Positivity. #TerminallyFree.” The family also thanked the medical team for their care, expressing their “sincere gratitude”.
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Mandela had made no effort to hide her diagnosis in recent years and even documented it for posterity. In 2013, she published a book, When Hope Whispers, which chronicled her family’s involvement in the anti-apartheid struggle, her personal struggles with alcohol and drug addiction, the loss of her children, and her struggle against breast cancer.
He spoke at length about the “social responsibility” he had as a member of the Mandela family. Nelson Mandela served as South Africa’s first post-apartheid president.
Mandela was born in 1980 and had six children – one of whom died in 2010 in a car accident and another who died after premature birth in 2011.
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Mandela also spoke very openly about the sexual abuse she suffered in her childhood between the ages of 8 and 14, which she blamed on her mother’s absence as “the ones who had to take care of [her]”he took advantage of her.
Her life, often full of tragedy, did not deter her from trying to help those around her: She campaigned against driving deaths and the dangers children face from cars and documented her journey fighting cancer to raise awareness and to encourage other preventive measures.
She underwent treatment for a double mastectomy shortly after her breast cancer diagnosis, but soon discovered she also had liver cancer, according to The Evening Standard.
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After the BBC named her one of its 100 women in reporting in 2016, she said it was “important for women to speak up, to be tested, to do their own tests”.
“I spent so much time abusing drugs and alcohol and taking it away from my family and loved ones,” she said during an interview with the BBC. “I just hope where he’s at with my daughter looking down and thinking he’s finally made it.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.