Democracy icon’s 3rd wife a class act

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The wife of revered democracy leader Nelson Mandela, Graca Machel has barely been seen in public in the wake of the icon’s death. Friends of the family say she is holding up, “Graca is very strong. She is a polished woman, I didn’t see her break down.” Machel was Mandela’s third wife, and he was her second presidential husband. She was the widow of Mozambican president Samora Machel who died in a plane crash in 1986. She was 27 years younger than Mandela when they married on his 80th birthday in 1998. A formidable political operator in her own right and a renowned rights campaigner, Machel took time to win over South Africans. A UN expert on children in armed conflict, she is also leading a global campaign against child brides. In 2010 Time magazine named her among the world’s 100 most influential people. Mandela’s fellow Nobel peace laureate, archbishop Desmond Tutu said South Africans owed Machel a “tremendous debt of gratitude” for the joy she brought Mandela in the latter stages of his life. Her initial relations with Mandela’s ex-wife were extremely frosty, with Winnie mocking her as the president’s “concubine.” Mandela’s illness helped forge a bond between the two women.

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