Nelson Mandela’s grandkids are starring in their own reality show, ‘Being Mandela’

Nelson Mandela

Chalk this one up to another example of famous offspring and their untamable itch to become reality stars. This Sunday, a new show called “Being Mandela,” which stars two of Nelson Mandela’s granddaughters — Zaziwe Dlamini-Manaway and Swati Dlamini — is premiering in the United States on the Cozi TV channel. I’ll let that one sink in for a moment.

We’ve seen this sort of spectacle before to a lesser degree with celebrities. Remember how Ozzy Osbourne’s badassery was obliterated when we saw him snoring on a chaise lounge and moaning over doggy doo in “The Osbournes”? Then Clint Eastwood’s wife and daughters decided it would be a great idea to star in their own reality show, and it turned out even worse than we imagined. On a very similar note, I don’t want to learn things about Nelson Mandela that would seek to diminish his stature. Like, I don’t want to see him scratching his nuts while reading the morning paper. And I definitely don’t want to learn that he watches “Toddlers & Tiaras.” Oh wait. He definitely does the latter, according to his granddaugthers. People, this is only the beginning:

Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela

It seemed that Nelson Mandela’s life, from prison on Robben Island to president of South Africa, had been documented from every conceivable angle. Yet on Friday came a fresh revelation that suggested you might never really know someone.

Mandela, 94, is an avid viewer of the reality TV series Toddlers and Tiaras. Or so his granddaughters claim.

Zaziwe Dlamini-Manaway and Swati Dlamini were promoting their own reality TV series, Being Mandela, which begins in the US on Sunday. In an interview with Associated Press (AP) they suggested that Mandela, world renowned as a liberation hero, statesman and Nobel peace laureate, “sort of likes” reality TV and will “definitely” watch their show.

“You’ll be interested to know that he loves Toddlers and Tiaras,” a laughing Swati said. Zaziwe added hastily: “Because of the kids! He just loves children.”

It seems an unlikely pastime for a man whose hinterland is known to include boxing and Handel and Tchaikovsky and who is said to read half a dozen newspapers a day, neatly folding them as he goes.

Ndileka Mandela, his eldest grandchild, denied any knowledge of Mandela watching reality TV. “I know he watches National Geographic and news channels but I don’t know if he watches Toddlers and Tiaras,” she said. “I’ve never seen him watch the programme.”

The claim will do no harm to publicity efforts for Being Mandela on Cozi TV. South Africa’s first black president, who was recently treated for a lung infection and had surgery to remove gallstones, does not feature in the series but the women’s grandmother, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, is said to relish making cameo appearances.

The granddaughters sought to allay fears that South Africa’s most revered family is entering “Keeping Up with the Kardashians” territory. “We get asked this question a lot,” Dlamini said in the AP interview. “Is this not going to tarnish the name and is this not going to be bad for the name? “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 US, make a poignant visit to the prison where their grandfather spent 18 of the 27 years he was incarcerated by the white-minority regime. Swati has been working on publishing the prison diaries that her grandmother wrote but now cannot bear to read.

The sisters, along with two brothers, have become the latest famous names to launch a fashion line, called Long Walk to Freedom after their grandfather’s autobiography, according to AP. They hope US audiences will see a vibrant and modern side of South Africa through their eyes.

“They also bicker. The family, especially Madikizela-Mandela, loves to gossip about when Swati, the single mother of a four-year-old daughter, is going to get married,” AP added. “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.”

[From Guardian]

No matter how Nelson’s granddaughters attempt to sugarcoat what they are truly doing here — blatantly capitalizing upon their family name — with “poignant” moments involving the history of Mandela, we all know what this show is going to turn into. All these ladies will really be doing is showcasing their day-to-day lives in an effort to become stars in their own rights. Such a shame.

Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela

Photos courtesy of Fame/Flynet, WENN, and the Mail

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50 Responses to “Nelson Mandela’s grandkids are starring in their own reality show, ‘Being Mandela’”

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  1. T.Fanty says:

    No, no, no, no, no, no, no. Just no.

    ETA: He’s Mandela. That’s about as damn near sacred as you can get. Shame on everyone involved. Famewh#ring should not be this family’s legacy (*pause to give the tiniest of side-eyes to Winnie).

      • Jo 'Mama' Besser says:

        For all of the extreme messiness of his party, I can think of something worse. Rome wasn’t decolonized in a day and political sea change on that level results in chaos so common that it’s not.

        I don’t want to come off as cynical or aloof and I’m not trying to dismiss the crimes and suffering being endured because they’re reprehensible, but the aftermath shocking, not surprising.

    • Pont Neuf says:

      There’s nothing sacred about this man. I am sorry to say this, but he is little more than an opportunist who has milked his fight against Apartheid (which is a very noble pursuit indeed) for all its worth.

      Since his accession to government and the “equalization” and “racial integration” that South Africa underwent (where, incidentally, most black people live in abject poverty while the members of the ANC and their cronies have become outrageously wealthy, often helping themselves to public funds that should be used to improve the situation of their brothers and sisters), he has used his status as a human rights icon to silence critics and shamelessly hide the ANC’s atrocious corruption.

      As for Winnie, she is a criminal, a thug and a bully who used donations generously given for her husband’s cause to lead a reign of terror in many black communities, while leading a life of absolute luxury.

      I know that what Mandela represents is important from both political and social points of view, but there’s nothing good or decent about that family, including Nelson himself.

      • Jaq says:

        I agree with you 100%

        He did something great for his country but I don’t understand why people ‘worship’ him. Especially after how he neglected his hiv + son.

      • LAK says:

        i recently re-read ‘Petals of blood’ by Ngugi wa Thiong’o and couldn’t help thinking about the ANC/Zimbabwe and all these post colonial African regimes. It’s as relevant today as it was when it was written, and even though it is set in Kenya, all of these people are of the same ilk.

        Unfortunately, Mandela has been deified by the west so much that they don’t look too closely at his actions.

      • Angelic 20 says:

        Plus 1, but it can be said about almost all the freedom fighters. For example Lincoln, he was ready to kill so many people but that is never discussed by his biographers, Gandhi was a terrible father (his son died as a muslin alcoholic and homeless) but people never discuss that. IMO not even men who do great things are prefect, they failed at somethings and that is never discussed in their legacy because their achievements are far greater then their failures .

      • Meredith says:

        I’ve known 2 people personally who were well known for their accomplishments and the good they did for people on a national scale. Both were my friends but both had a single mindedness or hyper-focus about them that would make them hard to be in a relationship with or related to. They were driven in a way that others just couldn’t possibly be. It made them successful but it didn’t make them easy to be with. Mandela’s political accomplishments are without question IMO but I don’t really know much about him privately. And I don’t really want to watch his offspring grapple for fame on reality TV.

      • Mich says:

        @ Pont Neuf

        As an American expat who has lived in South Africa for the last 14 years and published on the the social and political issues that impact foreign investment on the continent extensively, I have absolutely no idea what you are talking about.

        Nelson Mandela did exactly what he was supposed to do as the first democratically elected leader of this country – he stepped down from power and more or less left the running of the party to his successors as a show of how power is supposed to be transferred. Is the ANC a mess today? Absolutely. But believe me, that is NOT Nelson Mandela’s doing. Thabo Mbeki, yes. Jacob Zuma, yes. Nelson Mandela, no.

        The man (and his contemporaries Govan Mbeki, Walter Sisulu, et al) is revered here for good reason. No western slant required. He is a man among men and the world would be a better place if it had more like him.

      • Leen says:

        I agree you with you Mich. the ANC is one hot mess but South Africa was bound to become a mess because transition isn’t easy.

        As for Mandela, I don’t know much about his private life but I admire his political achievements. I mean please let us not forget that people like tambo and biko were instrumental in ending apartheid.
        But this program sounds like a terrible idea.

      • Mich says:

        @ Leen

        Steve Biko. What an amazing and brave man. The news that his partner, Mamphela Ramphele, has decided to enter public life has filled me with incredible hope and joy.

      • Leen says:

        I admire Steve Biko’s work, he really was a great man. I read his book I write what I like, it’s very good. It’s a shame that people outside of South Africa gloss over him because I really do think he restored that pride in South Africans with his Black Consciousness movement.

    • JuneBug says:

      I’ll never watch…fame whoreing at its worst.

  2. Riana says:

    Dear God no,

    Sadly known his grandchildren this doesn’t surprise me. Sad.

  3. Reece says:

    OH MY GOD!!! NNNOOOOOOOOO! NOOO! *head desk*

  4. LAK says:

    All the grandkids have always capitalised on their surname, so this isn’t surprising.

    i am surprised Winnie is involved, but i would watch her episodes.

    She is just as much a legend as Mandela, and i want to see if she is still the firebrand she always was.

    • bluhare says:

      Now I feel bad. I thought Winnie was dead.

      • LAK says:

        Winnie is very much alive, but tends to keep a much lower profile.

        The last time she was covered in a paper, she was giving interviews about that dreadful Jennifer Hudson biographical film about her [she doesn't approve] AND the fact that she’s not sorry for her actions and doesn’t understand why Nelson forgave the whites. She is still hopping mad about it all.

        It’s too bad that power corrupted her because she was more instrumental in keeping Mandela’s name alive than she is given credit for.

      • Mich says:

        @ LAK

        A decade and a half ago, Winnie was still a legend. Then she became a very public bully and made the mistake of threatening newspapers for publishing about her criminal activities. They retaliated by publishing every threat she made to them and it pretty much ended any relevance she had in the country.

        I had a private breakfast with the mother of these girls several years ago and she was a lovely and extremely smart woman. She’s just been appointed ambassador to Argentina.

    • Lissanne says:

      Winnie a “firebrand”? She was a murderous thug, and would set her followers on anyone that disagreed with her. That’s why Nelson divorced her ass.

    • LAK says:

      @Mich/@lissanne, I know all that she has done. The good, the bad and the ugly. I am also aware of why he divorced her. Believe me I don’t look at her with rose tinted spectacles.

      And she remains a legend. The question is what type of legend? A legend isn’t just about one aspect of a person nor is it only good people who become legends.

      Frankly, after everything she endured, is anyone truly surprised by what she became?

      I want to see her. If she is on this reality show, I would watch.

      • Mich says:

        I don’t know. Within SA she is no-where close to being a legend. I look at it bit like the discussion of Gandhi earlier. I remember reading his auto-biography in college and being surprised by how much I ended up not liking him. The prof made the point that when the movie was made, Indian people asked themselves why a British filmmaker was behind it and not an Indian. The answer was that the Indians just didn’t like him as much. I don’t know if this is true but, after reading his own words about himself, I could imagine how that was so.

        A long way of saying that I think the legend of Winnie is much larger outside SA than within.

      • Jo 'Mama' Besser says:

        I think it’s a bit different in Winnie’s case. Outside of South Africa, I think she gets a lot more criticism than Ghandhi gets outside of India. That alone makes we interested in the slant that the movie will take, even if I don’t have any desire to watch it.

  5. hoya_chick says:

    Gross. The saddest part about this foolishness is that this will be added to his legacy! That makes me so angry. He is a great man, who has done so many brave and admirable things and they are tarnishing his legacy.

    I will not be watching and I hope others don’t either. Also, what the hell is ‘cozi tv channel?’ I’m pretty sure I don’t have it on my cable. Problem solved.

  6. Heebeegeebee says:

    “As long as we treat it with respect and integrity.” Too late.

  7. RHONYC says:


    the Braxtons ain’t havin’ this sh*t.

    *Rodney Dangerfield’s voice*

    “no resp-ect at all” :-(

  8. Little_grrl_lost says:

    This is a travesty in every sense of the word. Shameful.

  9. Yasmina says:

    Is nothing sacred anymore?!?!?!

  10. Angee says:

    Money, money, money. It’s all about the money, money, money.

  11. JL says:

    I can’t think of a better way to disrespect thier grandparents and their legacy.

    I also can’t think of a better way to proclaim “I’m a useless, talentless, freeloading, opportunistic famewhore”.

    Do these people have no other way to support themselves other than being leeches?

    • T.C. says:


      “The sisters, who spent most of their childhood in exile in the US”. That explains a lot. I’ve met many Africans and they are big on keeping family matters private. If his granddaughters were raised in the U.S. they would have a deferent mentality.

  12. Kiki says:

    Ugh, I don’t want them to ruin his legacy. It’s the same with Clint Eastwood, even though he was not in the show, I could never look at him the same ever again.

  13. JL says:

    I looked it up. LMFAO, I give the freeloaders 2 months on this channel.
    Look at the lineup, really, this is perhaps one step above public access TV.

    COZI TV will replace the NBC NonStop channel.

    Shows slated to be featured include “Magnum, P.I.,” “Charlie’s Angels,” “Lone Ranger” and “The Six Million Dollar Man.”

  14. alc says:

    Ahhh give me a very large break! I don’t really care who you are (and before everyone jumps on me, that was sarcasm, I fully realize who Nelson Mandela is), the world does not need another freakin’ reality show!!!

  15. Elceibeno says:

    Not only do we have to endure American reality tv shows, but now they are being imported from overseas! Nelson Mandela’s legacy will be cheapened by their grand hildren pimping themselves to a famewhoring show.

  16. KellyinSeattle says:

    This is not a good idea, but his grandkids are cute. That’s probably why they thought they could pull out a reality show, but it’ll tank.

  17. lucy2 says:

    What a shame that after all he went through and accomplished, the inspiration his grandkids have is to start a “fashion line” and have a reality show. Following in the footsteps of Hiltons and Kardashians.
    Not law school, charity work, activism, education, etc. Nope, reality TV. It’s gross.

  18. Nanz says:

    There’s no way I’d let relatives famewhore off my good name (if my name was as good as Mandela’s). Cut them out of the will, Nelson!

  19. Maria says:

    I’m interested to see how it ends up.

    As a South African, I wish they would let the poor man live his final days in peace.

    Oh and I don’t know how many of you are South African but for a moment whilst reading these comments, it felt weird to see so many comments about how Nelson Mandela has affected SA and the post apartheid govt.

    I always feel like I’m the only South African who reads gossip blogs and it is Amazing to know how many of us read Celebitchy :)

    • Samantha says:

      Fellow South African here too!!!Actually find it quite despicable that a certain section of the Mandela clan has now resorted to famewhoring themselves because much like the irrelevance called Paris Hilton,the only thing these two are ‘famous’ for are possessing a certain last name and nothing else,period.

    • Mich says:

      An American expat on year 14 living in the Mother City here!

      On one hand, I’m completely disgusted by the fact that Madiba’s grandchildren are doing this. The man has so little time left and he deserves to spend them in peace. On the other hand, maybe this show will demonstrate to people in the West that Africa is more than just a pit of despair. It is sad that a reality show – the lowest of the low – is something that might help accomplish this.

  20. Maria says:

    I feel like if you want to make a name for yourself, stop riding the coattails of your famous grandfather.

    It’s the same way I feel about all these children capitalising on their family’s success especially when it’s something like a reality show.

    Eastwood, Mandela and all these celebs made a name for themselves doing their own thing. Heck I know it’s unavoidable but I wish they would try a little harder to maintain the reputation of their family.

  21. kc says:


    They should be ashamed of themselves. However, I feel this way about all reality tv.