Mandela and First Wife - Evelyn Mase

Mandela and First Wife - Evelyn Mase - Preview Image

Nelson Mandela and Evelyn Mase (then his girlfriend) are seen here at the wedding of Walter and Albertina Sisulu in April of 1944.  Mandela was best man; Evelyn (who was Sisulu's first cousin) was a bridesmaid. 

On July 15, 1944, Evelyn and Nelson were also married.  Evelyn was the family's financial supporter, initially, while Nelson studied law at the University of the Witwatersrand.  At the same time, Mandela began to devote more and more time to politics.

Their differences in beliefs, and his growing dedication to politics, eventually caused the couple to divorce after thirteen years and four children.  (One child, a daughter, died at nine months old.)  Thereafter, Evelyn raised their children, alone, and supported them with the proceeds from her grocery store.

Evelyn died, of lung and respiratory problems, in May of 2004.  A South African newspaper (the Independent OnLine) published the following article, at her death:

"Do not throw me away in the time of old age. Just when my power is failing, do not leave me."

This is the scriptural verse, Psalm 71 verse 9, that Nelson Mandela's deeply religious first wife, Evelyn Rakeepile, asked her daughter to read to her on the day she died.

Makaziwe Mandela, the only daughter of Rakeepile and Mandela, said on Sunday her mother - who suffered chronic lung disease - had died at Milpark Hospital in Johannesburg on Friday.

Rakeepile, who was 82, was admitted on Tuesday.

Speaking from her Johannesburg home, Makaziwe Mandela said that when she went to the hospital on Friday, her mother had asked her to read to her from Psalms.

Mandela said she was in Rustenburg on Thursday, and on her return to Johannesburg, she heard there was nothing more that doctors could do to save her mother's life.

"I went to the hospital to see her and she was very bad."

"On Friday I visited her with my friend, and we talked about a number of things," said Mandela.

"She asked me to read her Psalm 71 verse 9. She could see I was not doing well and she asked my friend to read me Revelations 21 verse 4.  Both scriptures were her favourite."

The verse from Revelations reads: "And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes: and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away."

Mandela said: "I will remember my mother for her tenacity and being true to her religious beliefs until the end."

Rakeepile was born in Umtata in 1922. Her mother and the mother of the late African National Congress veteran Walter Sisulu were sisters.

She married Nelson Mandela in 1944 and they were divorced in 1957. They had two sons and two daughters.

In 1998 she married Soweto businessman Simon Rakeepile, who is also very religious. They both were Jehovah's Witnesses and lived in Mzimhlophe in Soweto.

On the 5th of December, 2013, Nelson Mandela also died.  We can view his family tree in a clickable BBC chart

Credits

Photo from the Eli Weinberg Collection, maintained at the Robben Island Museum Mayibuye Archive.  Online, courtesy Robben Island Museum.

 

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