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o ordinary girl; Zoleka could not escape her extraordinary life even if she tried. She was born to the daughter of Nelson and Winnie Mandela, spent a significant amount of her childhood in exile, witnessed her mother’s tact with guns, according to the opening line of the book, “By the time I was born, on 9 April 1980, my mother knew how to strip and assemble an Ak-47 in exactly thirty-eight seconds.”, her grandfather’s imprisonment and maybe the harsher reality of apartheid South Africa without any immunity from adolescence and raging brokenness. Zoleka’s young life was filled with painful experiences of sexual abuse, relationships that were bigger and deeper than her age, experimenting with drugs and falling pregnant for the first time in her teens. Her adult life was no more sheltered; her experiences with sex, drugs and alcohol blew into a consuming addiction- an addiction so intensely paralyzing that a drug induced psychotic episode ended with her hospitalized after setting her bedroom on fire just a few days before her daughter Zenani was killed in a motor accident during the 2010 World Cup. In 2011 Zoleka experienced another loss when her son Zenawe died of organ failure resulting from a premature birth.

Another significant experience in Zoleka’s adult life was her journey with breast cancer which she describes as having saved her life. Seven months after the release of the autobiography published by Jacana Media, AfroElle Magazine caught up with Zoleka to chat about her candid and inspiring book and its impact on her life and the lives of those who have read it.


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