For nearly a decade, Zoleka Mandela has campaigned tirelessly, turning her personal tragedy into a call for action.
In own words, “there is nothing more painful than losing a child”, and while she acknowledges that the pain may never diminish, she is determined that no family should suffer like her own. Zoleka’s daughter, Zenani Mandela, was killed on a Johannesburg road in June 2010. Zenani died just after her 13th birthday – she had been a teenager for barely 48 hours. Zoleka’s grandfather, Nelson Mandela, had been due to open the World Cup in South Africa, a moment of great celebration and national pride. Instead, the former President and his family were plunged into grief.
Back in 2010, Nelson Mandela told his grieving granddaughter: “You are not the only one who has lost a child. I have lost a child and many people have. But for you, it is so that you can bring hope to many.” These words, and her grandfather’s example, have been a source of inspiration and strength. Since the start of the UN Decade of Action for Road Safety, Zoleka has been at the forefront of worldwide campaigns for road safety.
Among many activities: Zoleka has led successful global campaigning for the inclusion of road safety in the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals; she opened the 2nd Global Ministerial Conference on Road Safety in Brasilia with a powerful call to action; and she addressed the UN on Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) and road traffic injury during the Third High Level Meeting on NCDs in 2018. With global partners, Zoleka is working to advance the agenda particularly for young people. She is currently campaigning for a Global Summit on Adolescent Health, to address the leading health burdens on young people, including road traffic injury. She believes that it is wholly unacceptable that road traffic injury is the leading killer of young people globally when it is entirely preventable. For Zoleka, we must all step up, demand that our leaders take action, and take the lead ourselves to ensure that no family suffers on the world’s roads
Zoleka is the Founder of the Zoleka Mandela Foundation.