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Africa
Machel: Mandela was a lonely man
Wife of the former South African president provides an unique insight on her husband.
Last Modified: 18 Jul 2008 09:57 GMT
Machel said Mandela is venerated because "the world needs symbols" 

Graca Machel, the wife of Nelson Mandela, says the former South African president was a lonely person when she met him first.

In an exclusive interview with Al Jazeera's Mike Hanna to mark Mandela's 90th birthday on Friday, Machel, Mandela's third wife, said their coming together helped ease each other's lonelines.

Mandela led South Africa's struggle against racial apartheid for which he was imprisoned for 27 years.

She said: "Madiba [Mandela] was a lonely person when I met him."

"He had the world in his hands. But at the end of the day, after the public meetings etc, he would go home and he would be alone.

"After the 27 years in jail what he was longing mostly, it was not only the glory of a political life but it was to have a family life, which he missed most of his time.

"And if I can say in a very modest way, that’s what I give him back. And of course, he’s there for me too."

'No living saint'

Machel, who had become a widow in 1986 after the death of Mozambiquan President Samora Machel in an air crash, said that Mandela had helped her get over her own grieving.

She said that it was extremely difficult to let go of her anguish, but Mandela helped her move on.

Friday also marks the couple’s 10th wedding anniversary, and Machel commented on what her husband had given to the world.

"Madiba offers that sense of dignity, the sense of perseverance in what is good, what is just, what is the protection of the most vulnerable."

However, she said that he was no living saint.

"He also gets angry. He is somehow stubborn. You need to convince him. You have to have a very good argument to make him change his mind. And so he has weaknesses.

"He made mistakes in life. Towards his family, his friends. He made mistakes even in political decisions."

Michel said that Mandela is venerated in such high terms because "the world needs symbols."

Machel said that marrying a personality such as Mandela had not stifled her independence because her husband always respected her space and the causes she embraced.

Machel herself fought for independence in a guerrilla war before becoming the first minister of education in a newly independent Mozambique.

She significantly decreased the illiteracy rate during her 14 year term in office.

She has championed the rights of children and other causes for may decades, becoming a Unicef ambassador and receiving numerous international awards for her work. She is a member of the order of the British empire (MBE).

Source:
Al Jazeera
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