While it’s likely to remain a footnote in his biography, Nelson Mandela will soon be the grandfather to two reality TV personalities.
Zaziwe Dlamini-Manaway and Swati Dlamini, both in their 30s, are the subjects of Being Mandela, a 13-episode series that shows them navigating motherhood and creating some semblance of a normal life in Johannesburg.
In an interview with the Associated Press, Dlamini acknowledged: “We get asked this question a lot. Is this not going to tarnish the name and is this not going to be bad for the name?” No, because that would be giving the women too much credit.
Although they don’t technically have “Mandela” as their family name (their parents are Zenani Mandela and Prince Thumbumuzi Dlamini of Swaziland), Dlamini explained, “Our grandparents have always said to us, this is our name too, and we can do what we think is best fitting with the name, as long as we treat it with respect and integrity.” The former South African president does not appear in the show, but apparently ex-wife Winnie Madikizela-Mandela plays an active role in her granddaughters’ lives and, as such, became comfortable with the camera’s presence.
It’s too early to say whether she assumes a role similar to Kris Jenner or Sharon Osbourne, two other reality television matriarchs. Like the Kardashians, the Mandela granddaughters have started a clothing line, called Long Walk to Freedom, which they oversee with their brothers. But it’s worth asking what purpose this serves the family: Is it for the attention or to ensure the family stays relevant outside of South Africa? Certainly they could have directed their energies toward infinite other projects.
As for the health of their grandfather – he received treatment for a lung infection and gallstones in December – they insisted that he is “happy and healthy” and pulled out a picture from January of Mandela holding his one-year-old great-grandson.
Being Mandela will air on the COZI network, a premium cable channel run by NBC.
As your reward for reading this far, here’s the best nugget to emerge from the granddaughters’ press tour: It seems that the man a nation called Madiba is a fan of Toddlers & Tiaras, the show about child beauty pageants.
Now that’s an essential Mandela footnote.