Nelson Mandela

Grandchildren cash in with T-shirts on Mandela's 95th birthday

Few attend launch of garments emblazoned with 'Legend', 'Long Walk to Freedom'

PUBLISHED : Friday, 19 July, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 19 July, 2013, 3:36am

Their family has been accused of crass commercialism, exploiting their grandfather's name and tarnishing his legacy by fighting over his final resting place.

Undaunted, two of Nelson Mandela's granddaughters chose the eve of his 95th birthday on Wednesday to launch a collection of T-shirts selling for 299 rand (HK$235) emblazoned with "Legend", "Revolutionary" and "Long Walk to Freedom".

Swati Dlamini and Zaziwe Dlamini-Manaway said they would be among 30 to 40 family members visiting the former president in hospital in Pretoria for his birthday yesterday.

The pair, who featured in the critically mauled reality TV show Being Mandela, had posted half a dozen tweets on their joint Twitter account inviting all to the launch in one of South Africa's more luxurious shopping malls. The handful of shoppers at the Cross Trainer in Sandton were comfortably outnumbered by staff and about 20 journalists.

Swati wore two of the 14 new designs. Asked whether they were competing with the Nelson Mandela Foundation's 46664 brand - a reference to his prison number on Robben Island - she replied: "We are all trying to achieve the same objective."

She added: "We launched it around my grandfather's birthday to celebrate his legacy. My grandfather was also a lover of fashion. He became famous for his Madiba shirts."

Swati and Zaziwe, both in their 30s, denied they were trying to cash in with their Kardashians-style reality show and clothing range. Swati said: "Our grandparents have always told us that this legacy and this name also belongs to us and that we have a birthright to it, and that's essentially it."

Zaziwe said: "This is just us doing us. This is our name as well, there's nothing we can do about it. We were born into this family and it's our name: we love it, we cherish it, we respect it and we are just trying to continue our grandfather's legacy."