Nelson Mandela, the legendary apartheid fighter and first president of a truly Democratic South Africa, attended a memorial service Thursday for his 13-year old great granddaughter who was killed in a car accident just before the opening of the World Cup games.
Mandela, who at 91 doesn't appear in public much anymore, had been expected to attend the opening ceremony of the World Cup. That South Africa was chosen in the first place as the venue for the games, the first time they've been held on the African continent, grew directly from the track he was so instrumental in placing the nation on.
But after his great granddaughter Zenani was killed in a one-car accident in a vehicle driven by a family friend, Mandela said he couldn't attend the celebratory World Cup opening.
Instead, his public appearance came at the somber memorial service.
The Associated Press reminds us that while Mandela achieved one of the great triumphs of the 20th Century by helping to lead South Africa to a peaceful transition from apartheid, his long life has been tragedy filled.
An AP excerpt:
In 1969, three years after arriving on Robben Island to serve a life sentence for sabotage, Mandela received a telegram from his younger son, Makgatho, informing him that his eldest son, Madiba Thembekile, had died in a car crash.
Prison authorities refused to allow Mandela to attend the funeral.
Thirty-six years later, Makgatho died. Mandela announced his last surviving son had died of AIDS-related complications, saying the only way to fight the disease's stigma was to speak openly.
Two of Mandela's marriages fell apart, the second to Winnie. He began his 27-year imprisonment only four years after marrying her.