New book about Madiba packs a surprise punch
The aggression came out of nowhere, and Nelson Mandela's fist slammed into the jaw of his male nurse.
He was being cared for at home and, his frustration at growing frail spilling over, he lashed out at his caregiver. Given his boxing background, Madiba's punch landed perfectly.
"He occasionally got quite combative, yelling at the nurses and caregivers," grandson Ndaba Mandela said.
"He even punched one male nurse in the face, much to everyone's shock and dismay. It was like the old boxer inside him had suddenly had enough of all this nonsense and - bam - he let loose a surprisingly strong left uppercut before anyone realised what was happening."
This story, revealed for the first time, forms part of the opening to Ndaba's first book, Going to the Mountain: Life Lessons from My Grandfather, Nelson Mandela, set for release on June 28.
Apart from sharing anecdotes about Madiba, the deeply personal book includes accounts of Ndaba's parents' battles with alcohol, his use of marijuana as a teen, being scolded for being "such an unruly little s**t in my early teens", and confronting subtle racism on a family trip to the US. It deals with Ndaba's path into manhood under Mandela's shadow, using the Xhosa circumcision ritual as a common thread throughout its textured storytelling.
Ndaba hopes the book will help the younger generation understand the value of his grandfather's life and contribution to South Africa.
But it also offers insight into Ndaba's deteriorating relationship with his elder brother, Mandla Mandela.
In an exclusive interview with the Sunday Times, Ndaba said family relations were "cordial", but he hinted at this breakdown - without mentioning names.
"Contrary to public belief, the family are not at war or loggerheads or anything of that sort," he said.
"There are one or two family members that fly away and do their own thing, but the majority of the family get along quite all right.
"Obviously there are one or two rogue members who do their own thing, but that's normal with any family.
"If I fight with my younger brother [Mbuso] or older brother [Mandla], it's in that moment.
"Just because we had a fight doesn't mean we're going to be hating each other for the rest of our lives," he said.In his book, however, he doesn't hold back and is much harsher on Mandla, who came to live in Madiba's house a few years after Ndaba did at the age of 11. Initially, Mandla was Ndaba's hero, and played the perfect role as an elder brother.
"I have to give him credit for the way he stepped up as the older brother. He included me in his life, shared his music with me, and took time to educate me on the fundamentals of how to be a guy," Ndaba writes.
"It's a bit painful to think about it ... because Mandla and I are not close now. Logistically, if one brother was in need, the other could be at his side in a couple of hours, but in all the ways that matter - ideologically, personally, emotionally - we are worlds apart. I did the worst thing a little brother can do: I grew up. And Mandla did the worst thing an older brother can do: He disappointed me."
Ndaba talks about how Mandla took his former girlfriend to the US on what was meant to be a boys' trip, and how there was conflict because Mandla was in charge of the money.
"We started seeing how much Mandla was spending on his girlfriend and knew that we'd been completely hoodwinked. So the trip ended up going kind of sideways. This was the beginning of the end of my relationship with my brother Mandla - not because of the trip budget, but because I saw this glaring stripe of his true colours."
On another occasion, Ndaba was bust for taking Mandla's car - a customised Toyota Tazz - without permission. Mandla was fuming, and the confrontation ended in Ndaba sporting a black eye for a week.
While personal stories are spread throughout the book, Ndaba told the Sunday Times that the whole point was to tell "the younger generation" about the importance of Mandela - particularly amid celebrations for what would have been Madiba's 100th birthday on July 18.