Mandela's grandson honors his legacy at Library of Congress
© Shawn Miller, Library of Congress

Ndaba Mandela, the grandson of the late Nelson Mandela, says his grandfather would have been a vocal voice for the rights of immigrants if he were still alive.

“I think he would really appeal to the … humanitarian side of us and say, do we yet forget that this country was built by foreigners?” Mandela told The Hill about the current controversy over immigration. “The fundamentals of this country, the building blocks of this country ... [were] built by a lot of immigrants. So how now do we … forget where we came from?

“And I think he would really appeal to say at the end of the day, no one lives in isolation. Let us understand we all live in an interdependent world, and we need to understand and realize and recognize that we have one common destiny as humankind,” he added.


The younger Mandela was in Washington on Wednesday to speak at the Library of Congress about the legacy of his grandfather, the first black president of South Africa.

Ndaba Mandela is the founder and chairman of the Africa Rising Foundation and has a new book, “Going to the Mountain: Life Lessons from My Grandfather.”

Speaking to Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden at the event, Mandela spoke out against the harsh treatment of migrants in countries around the world, including his home of South Africa.

“South Africans were physically attacking Ethiopians, Zimbabweans, Nigerians, etc., saying that they’re stealing our jobs, and messing up our economy, etc etc. Which is a damn shame,” Mandela said. “It’s a damn shame because these are the very same people that assisted you in liberating your country!

“We need to remind each other where we come from,” he said to applause from the audience.

The discussion though was not only focused on current events, as Mandela also shared memories of his grandfather.

He said he wrote the book to celebrate what would have been his grandfather’s 100th birthday in July and to help preserve his legacy.

“I wanted … people to know Nelson Mandela outside of being a statesman, outside of being this great iconic leader that they know and just to know him at the human level as a granddad,” Mandela told The Hill.

Mandela shared touching stories about his grandfather, including the time Nelson Mandela answered a call from Queen Elizabeth II and referred to her by her first name. His grandfather’s defense was that she had called him Nelson.

“Granddad, please forgive me for this one,” Mandela had joked before sharing the story.