Graça Machel

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Graça Machel
First Lady of South Africa
In office
18 July 1998 – 14 June 1999
President Nelson Mandela
Preceded by Winnie Madikizela-Mandela
Succeeded by Zanele Mbeki
First Lady of Mozambique
In office
11 November 1975 – 19 October 1986
President Samora Machel
Preceded by none
Succeeded by Marcelina Chissano
Personal details
Born (1945-10-17) October 17, 1945 (age 72)
Incadine, Mozambique
Spouse(s) Samora Machel
11 November 1975 - 19 October 1986
Nelson Mandela
18 July 1998 - present
Alma mater University of Lisbon
Occupation Teacher and then Education Minister

Graça Machel, DBE (born Graça Simbine; 17 October 1945) is the third wife of former South African president Nelson Mandela and the widow of the late Mozambican president Samora Machel. She is the only person in the world to have been married to the presidents of two different nations. She is an international advocate for women’s and children’s rights.

Personal life

Born in rural Incadine, Gaza Province, Mozambique, she attended Methodist Mission schools before gaining a scholarship to attend University of Lisbon in Portugal, where she first became involved in independence issues. In that university, she got a scholarship from Romance Languages. She is fluent in English, Spanish, Italian, French, as well as Portuguese and her native Tsonga. She returned to Mozambique in 1973, joined the Mozambican Liberation Front (FRELIMO) and became a schoolteacher.

Following Mozambique independence in 1975, Machel was appointed Minister for Education and Culture. She married Samora Machel the same year. Following her retirement from the Mozambique ministry, Machel was appointed as the expert in charge of producing the ground-breaking United Nations Report on the Impact of Armed Conflict on Children. Her first husband died in a plane crash over South Africa in 1986.

Graça Machel in 1984, with then husband President Samora Machel of Mozambique, and P W Botha and Pik Botha of South Africa, at the signing of the Nkomati Accord.

Machel received the 1995 Nansen Medal from the United Nations in recognition of her longstanding humanitarian work, particularly on behalf of refugee children.

She was thrust back into the international spotlight in July 1998 when she married Nelson Mandela.

In 1998 she was one of the two winners of the North-South Prize.[1]

Machel currently serves as the President of the AWEPA (European Parliamentarians with Africa) Partnership Council.

Positions and awards

  • Mozambican Minister for Education
  • Chairperson of National Organization of Children of Mozambique
  • Organization that places orphans in village homes
  • Works closely with families to rehabilitate children
  • Delegate to 1998 UNICEF conference in Zimbabwe
  • President of National Commission of UNESCO
  • Served international steering committee 1990 World Conference on Education for All
  • Appointed by the Secretary-General of the United Nations to chair a study on the Impact of Armed Conflict on Children
  • Recipient of InterAction's humanitarian award 1997
  • Received major award from CARE as result-longstanding work on behalf of children[2]
  • Machel is a member of the Africa Progress Panel (APP), an independent authority on Africa launched in April 2007 to focus world leaders’ attention on delivering their commitments to the continent. The Panel launched a major report in London on Monday 16 June 2008 entitled Africa's Development: Promises and Prospects[3].
  • Chancellor of the University of Cape Town
  • Doutora Honoris Causa by University of Évora, Portugal, 14 November 2008
  • On 28 August 2007 Graça Machel was made an honorary Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire at the request of British Prime Minister Gordon Brown.
  • Doctor of Philosophy (DPhil) Honoris Causa in March 2008, from the University of Stellenbosch.[4]

The Elders

Graça Machel (left)

On 18 July 2007 in Johannesburg, South Africa, Nelson Mandela, Graça Machel, and Desmond Tutu convened "The Global Elders, a group of world leaders to contribute their wisdom, leadership and integrity to tackle some of the world's toughest problems. Mandela announced its formation in a speech on his 89th birthday. Archbishop Tutu is to serve as its Chair. Other founding members include Kofi Annan, Ela Bhatt, Gro Harlem Brundtland, Jimmy Carter, Li Zhaoxing, Mary Robinson and Muhammad Yunus.

“This group can speak freely and boldly, working both publicly and behind the scenes on whatever actions need to be taken,” Mandela commented. “Together we will work to support courage where there is fear, foster agreement where there is conflict, and inspire hope where there is despair.”

The Elders will be independently funded by a group of Founders, including Richard Branson, Peter Gabriel, Ray Chambers, Michael Chambers, Bridgeway Foundation, Pam Omidyar, Humanity United, Amy Robbins, Shashi Ruia, Dick Tarlow and the United Nations Foundation.


In April of 2010, in an interview with the Guardian in Johannesburg, she raised anger amongst Zimbabwean activists opposed to ZANU-PF's continued influence in Zimbabwe's political situation when she said: "Can I be a little bit provocative?...the more the British shout, the worse the situation will be in terms of relationship with Zimbabwe. That's why sometimes I really question, when something happens in Zimbabwe and Britain shouts immediately. Can't they just keep quiet? Sometimes you need just to keep quiet. Let them do their own things, let SADC (Southern African Development Community) deal with them, but keep quiet, because the more you shout, the worse [it is]." At the time she gave this interview, Zimbabwe's shaky coalition government of ZANU-PF and two MDC formations was still engaged in unproductive conciliatory talks with SADC as mediator.

External links


  1. ^ "The North South Prize of Lisbon". North-South Centre. Council of Europe. Retrieved 2008-01-21.
  2. ^
  3. ^ APP, Press Release: Africa Progress Panel demands action on global food crisis "reversing decades of economic progress", 16 June 2008,
  4. ^ "Graca Machel to receive honorary doctorate from the University of Stellenbosch". University of Stellenbosch. 18 October 2007. Retrieved 24 February 2010. line feed character in |accessdate= at position 4 (help)