Nelson Mandela’s Stepdaughter Loses Vision After Domestic Violence Attack: “No One Helped Me”

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It’s likely that the daughter of Nelson Mandela’s third wife Graça Machel will never use her right eye again, and she says that her boyfriend is to blame. In a telling interview with City Press, Josina Machel recalled the October 17 incident that changed her life forever.

The trouble began the night before her mother’s 70th birthday. Graça was in South Africa attending to other commitments. The family had plans to reunite and celebrate the following day. However, Josina desired to feel close to her mother that evening and decided that she would spend the night at her mom’s house. She desired to sleep in her bed.

“I wanted to be with my mother; I wanted to experience my mother. I was missing her. We were going to celebrate her birthday the following day and so I just wanted to feel my mum around me. That is why I was so adamant about going home,” she said.

Josina’s partner, however, couldn’t understand her decision and allegedly berated her because of it.

“There were just insults, just bad words. He expressed his unhappiness about me wanting to go home. I have blocked them out of my mind somehow emotionally. They are just not words that I expected to hear from anyone. They were demeaning of any woman and of me,” she explained.

Josina went on to say that the insults continued, and things eventually took a violent turn when her boyfriend proceeded to pummel her.

“I was so shocked that I did what everybody does when something happens to you. You don’t turn towards your aggressor. You protect yourself, and you try to protect your face, but to my surprise, I actually turned towards him and I asked ‘WHAT?!’ she shared. “That is how I got the second jab that blinded me, which ruptured the eye almost immediately. I felt the third one coming, and that’s when I ran out of the car, ran away from him.”

The couple was passing through a suburban neighborhood at the time. She recalled running through the streets crying for help.

“My eye was leaking so much that I was asking for help while covering the other eye because I thought [it] was actually falling out,” she said. “No one helped me.”

Josina suspects that she tripped on something in the road and blacked out because she recalls waking up in a hospital with no recollection of how she got there. She was later diagnosed with “eruption and displacement of the retina, which meant I could not see light … and, therefore, lost the ability to see.” After four weeks of testing and treatment, doctors informed her that she will probably never regain vision in her right eye.

“I’m still going through myriad feelings. To be honest, I have not been able to grieve, I have not been able to cry, I have not been angry, I have not been able to feel all those emotions that happened because I’ve been concentrating on my eye, and that delayed the pain,” she said.

She hopes that by sharing her story, she will help to spread awareness about violence against women and children.

“I also felt that not standing up in this fight will be an indictment on the legacy of my parents. Papa Madiba has always defended women’s rights, and my mum is the epitome of the significance of fights against injustice against women. So at this point, I have no right to be quiet and not to stand up.”

Josina’s boyfriend—a popular, “politically-connected” businessman—is expected to appear in court soon.

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