Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

Selling Mandela: From t-shirts to TV shows, how Madiba became a brand

From Robyn Curnow, CNN
August 1, 2013 -- Updated 1104 GMT (1904 HKT)
Nelson Mandela's daughter Makaziwe Mandela, and her daughter Tukwini Mandela, show off their House of Mandela wine range. Nelson Mandela's daughter Makaziwe Mandela, and her daughter Tukwini Mandela, show off their House of Mandela wine range.
HIDE CAPTION
Brand Mandela
Brand Mandela
Brand Mandela
Brand Mandela
Brand Mandela
Brand Mandela
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Nelson Mandela is recognized as a global "brand"
  • Mandela name has been used to launch collection of wines and clothing products
  • Two of his granddaughters starred in reality TV show "Being Mandela"
  • Some of his relatives have been accused of tarnishing his image

CNN Marketplace Africa is a weekly show offering a unique window into African business on and off the continent.

Johannesburg, South Africa (CNN) -- He has not formally appeared in public for years, and recently he's been battling illness inside a Pretoria hospital. But former South African president Nelson Mandela is still a beloved icon across the world, an international symbol of courage, strength and hope.

The 95-year-old Nobel laureate is also one of the world's most recognizable figures. More than just a man, he has become a global brand -- one that's estimated to be worth millions of dollars. Ever since Mandela was released from prison, where he had endured 27 years for fighting apartheid, many South Africans have felt like they'd like to "own" a little piece of him.

As a result, the smiling image of Madiba, as Mandela is affectionately referred to by South Africans, has been emblazoned on all sorts of memorabilia, items that are usually not associated with his legacy -- everything from t-shirts and place mats to banknotes and even salt and pepper shakers.

Read this: Mandela posters mark 95th birthday

Mandela reality show sparks controversy
Turning Mandela's life into a blockbuster
Veteran peacemakers talk Mandela

Some members of Mandela's own family have also been accused of cashing in on the anti-apartheid icon's legacy, using the world-renowned name for business ventures such as a collection of wines, called the "House of Mandela," or a clothing range branded with his prison number or an image of his hand.

More recently, two of his granddaughters -- Zaziwe Dlamini-Manaway and Swati Dlamini --starred in their own reality TV series, "Being Mandela," in which the family showed some of the Mandela-branded products. In answer to critics accusing them of tarnishing the Mandela name, his granddaughters say it's their name too, and that they are treating it with respect and integrity.

"You can't tell people how not to celebrate their father, or grandfather, or great grandfather, because they are using their own name," says Sello Hatang, head of the Nelson Mandela Center of Memory, which Mandela founded to continue his work after he retired.

"It would be arrogant ... to say you can't use your name so it's ensuring that we stick to what we believe is the legacy," he continues.

Speaking to CNN earlier this year, Mandela's daughter Maki, who is behind the wine brand, said that using the family name is important because it promotes South Africa, as well as a good product. She added that her father had told her: "If you use the name either for commercial or charitable or political (purposes), use it with a lot of integrity and responsibility."

In photos: Global tributes to Nelson Mandela

But how can Mandela's legacy and values be balanced with the commercial potential of his image? Hatang says that when Mandela's name was used by Viagra without permission, there was a public backlash.

He represents something in humanity that we should all have.
Sello Hatang, Nelson Mandela Center of Memory

"When Madiba was turning 90, they put up their own ad saying, 'Madiba turns 90, Viagra turns 10,'" explains Hatang. "And it was members of the public who objected, so it tells you that the legacy of Mandela is not just being preserved by us but it's being preserved and protected by many others."

Watch this: Turning Mandela's life into a blockbuster

While it's still unclear exactly who will control the "Mandela Brand" in the years to come, the way Madiba's legacy and image endures seems to depend on all those who have a stake in it -- from his family and his party, the African National Congress, to the people of South Africa.

Those who know him say he is comfortable with that, never prescribing how he should be honored.

"We tend to not want to recognize Madiba as a brand," says Hatang. "He represents something in humanity that we should all have. It's that thing that's special in each one of us, where we need to reach deep to find it," he adds.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
Marketplace Africa
February 24, 2014 -- Updated 1113 GMT (1913 HKT)
Kinshasa, the sprawling capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo, has installed two talking robots to help regulate the city's hectic traffic.
February 20, 2014 -- Updated 1121 GMT (1921 HKT)
A South African app allows buyers to pay for goods using their phone, without having to worry about carrying cash or credit cards.
February 19, 2014 -- Updated 1523 GMT (2323 HKT)
A Zambian computer tablet -- known as the ZEduPad -- is trying to open up the country's information highway.
January 9, 2014 -- Updated 1057 GMT (1857 HKT)
South Africa may be the dominant force in Africa's wine economy, but other countries are making inroads in the industry.
January 6, 2014 -- Updated 1155 GMT (1955 HKT)
Commuters aboard an overloaded passenger train 03 February 2004, celebrate after arrival at the train station in the centre of the capital Nairobi.
A $5 billion Chinese-funded railway project in Kenya could transform transport in east Africa.
December 13, 2013 -- Updated 0027 GMT (0827 HKT)
African astronomers want world-class observatories to inspire young scientists and build a tech economy.
November 27, 2013 -- Updated 1029 GMT (1829 HKT)
A new report praises South Africa's economic transformation since apartheid. But enormous challenges remain.
November 19, 2013 -- Updated 1156 GMT (1956 HKT)
Landlocked Burundi is looking to compete on the international stage as one of Africa's most prestigious coffee producers and exporters.
November 22, 2013 -- Updated 1718 GMT (0118 HKT)
zword app zombies
From zombie spelling games to walking snails, Africa's mobile gaming industry is taking off across the continent from Uganda to South Africa.
November 8, 2013 -- Updated 1146 GMT (1946 HKT)
Ethiopia is turning to renewable energy technology as the East African country looks to become a powerhouse for its regional partners.
November 13, 2013 -- Updated 1422 GMT (2222 HKT)
Animated cartoons are helping Kenyan companies to engage with audiences and lure international investors.
November 4, 2013 -- Updated 1216 GMT (2016 HKT)
Downtown Johannesburg -- once a no-go zone riddled with crime -- is undergoing urban restoration.
October 16, 2013 -- Updated 1412 GMT (2212 HKT)
Using helicopters and night-vision, crime syndicates are taking rhino poaching to a new level and conservation parks are struggling to keep up.
October 10, 2013 -- Updated 0927 GMT (1727 HKT)
Eko Atlantic city design concept
A lack of infrastructure has hindered Africa's development, but a series of megaprojects could change that.
Each week Marketplace Africa covers the continent's macro trends and interviews a major player from the region's business community.
ADVERTISEMENT