Nelson Mandela's Wife Graca Machel Was Strong During Husband's Death

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Nelson Mandela's Wife Graca Machel Was Strong During Husband's Death
Wed 11-12-2013

Nelson Mandela's widow Graca Machel, barely left her husband's bedside in the final 6 months of his life in a Pretoria hospital and the subsequent three months he spent at home before he died on December 5.

The Mozambican human rights campaigner had begun cancelling all but a handful of public engagements from June as Mandela's condition deteriorated.

The Sunday Times newspaper said Machel had been with Mandela when he died, along with the anti-apartheid icon's ex-wife, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela.

Mandela's close friend and lawyer George Bizos visited Machel a day after Mandela died and told AFP she was "very emotional," but another family friend, Bantu Holomisa, praised her stoicism in grief.

"Graca is very strong. She is a polished woman, I didn't see her break down," Holomisa said.

"She was giving directions and handing out tasks," he added.

Machel was Mandela's third wife, and he was her second presidential husband. She was the widow of Mozambican president Samora Machel who died in a plane crash in 1986.

She was 27 years younger than Mandela when they married on his 80th birthday in 1998.

"We make sure we spend time with each other because we were so lonely before," she told Mandela's authorized biographer after the marriage.

"When I am alone, I am very weak," he said when discussing Machel in 2007.

The couple marked their 15th wedding anniversary on July 18 as Mandela lay critically ill in hospital. 

The 27 years he spent behind bars had strained his marriage with Winnie and they became estranged, separating in 1992 before finally divorcing four years later.

"It wasn't love at first sight," Machel said of her first encounters with Mandela.

"For me things don't happen like that. For me falling in love is like a spark connecting two people. With Samora, I was with him for some time and only later did I feel the spark, It was the same with Nelson."

Source: Enca