A rapper, a chief: Mandela's grandsons rock to own beat (Feature)
By Clare Byrne Jul 15, 2008, 3:08 GMT
Johannesburg - One goes by the moniker Infinite Lyricist, wears a parka jacket with orange lining, baggy jeans, Timberland boots and a red bandana around his neck.
The other wears a lion skin, a beaded headdress and necklace and little else during traditional ceremonies in the village where he is chieftain.
Both are grandsons of former South African President Nelson Mandela, who celebrates his 90th birthday on Friday.
Bambatha Mandela, 18, is the grandson of Winnie Madikizela- Mandela, Mandela's second wife, and daughter of Zindzi, Mandela's youngest daughter. According to the Nelson Mandela Foundation website, Mandela has over 25 grandchildren and greatgrandchildren.
The week before the big bash at the Mandela family homestead in Qunu, Eastern Cape province, Bambatha was thinking more hip-hop than happy birthdays.
The round-faced teenager, who's on a gap year after finishing school, has been working on a solo album for four years.
He's also waiting for his friend, Ziyeka Sisulu, grandson of Walter Sisulu, Mandela's political mentor, to finish school so that they can record an album together.
In songs such as Like Mine (Flo' Searchin), available for download but not for sale on reverbnation.com website, Bambatha talks about social issues, like teen sex and the HIV/AIDS epidemic that has ravaged South Africa.
'XDR-TB (extreme drug-resistant TB), I need a hospital. I'm sick as AIDS that's unstoppable,' he chants.
Mandela himself has been known to do his famous jive/shuffle to a song Bambatha and Ziyeka recorded for his birthday three years ago, called Love Is.
'It was all about the struggle and how far we've come. He enjoyed it,' Bambatha says in an interview at his family home in Johannesburg's swish northern suburbs.
While declaring himself in one of his songs to be 'so musical, call me iPod,' Bambatha says he intends to follow in his grandfather's footsteps by studying law.
Mandela and deceased comrade-in-arms Oliver Tambo had the first black law practise in Johannesburg in the 1950s before dedicating themselves to the African National Congress. While he may sing about politics sometimes, Bambatha confides: 'It (politics) bores me.'
When Mandela was released from prison in 1990 after 27 years of lost family time, he made a point of getting to know his grandchildren.
'When he's home we can go and spend as much time as we want with him,' says Bambatha. Since Mandela retired from public life in 2004, 'It's getting a lot more relaxed now,' Bambatha says.
Asked about heading to the party in Qunu, where traditional dress is required, Bambatha shrugs, however, and says: 'I might. I'm not sure.'
One of the chief organizers of Saturday's festivities is 33-year- old Mandla Mandela, son of Makgatho Mandela, one of Mandela's sons with his first wife Evelyn, who died in 2005 of an HIV-AIDS-related illness.
Mandla's accession to the chieftainship of the Mvezo Traditional Council in the Eastern Cape in 2007 marked the restoration of the title to the Mandela clan - a title which Mandela passed up to pursue his political career.
In his capacity as chief, Mandla, a tall 33-year-old political science graduate from Rhodes University, is responsible for settling tribal disputes among members and representing his tribe in political matters.
At his investiture, one of the issues he vowed to turn his attention to was the deplorable state of roads in the impoverished province - but the luxury vehicles bearing dignitaries to Saturday's party will still have to negotiate some eye-popping craters.
'On this day (Mandela's 90th), tamomkhulu, (grandfather) will be able to reflect on the past, look into how far we have come and be able to say whether we are on the right track or not,' Mandla told the Sunday Times.
Mandela will also be able to survey his grandchildren to establish whether among them is another Rolihlahla (the name given to him at birth meaning 'troublemaker.)