Zoleka Mandela

Zoleka Mandela is celebrating 12 years of sobriety. Image via @zolekamandela/Instagram

‘I had my first drink at the age of 9’: Zoleka Mandela is proud of her sobriety

‘I had my last drink and the last cocaine binge at the age of 30’: Zoleka Mandela is looking forward to celebrating 12 years of sobriety.

Zoleka Mandela

Zoleka Mandela is celebrating 12 years of sobriety. Image via @zolekamandela/Instagram

Author and activist Zoleka Mandela is patting herself on the back after going 12 years without touching alcohol or drugs.

The 42-year-old, who welcomed her sixth baby in April, confessed to drinking and smoking at an early age but says she decided to turn her life around over a decade ago.


The author of When Hope Whispers took to her social media on Monday 13 June to share an old picture of herself holding a cigar to her mouth.

Zoleka shared that she is excited about approaching 12 years of sobriety in August this year. In her caption, she also explained that she smoked her very last cigarette in 2012, at age 32, after having her first when she was 13. In addition, she said her first drink was at the age of nine.

According to aware.org, South African children are drinking from a young age, and our country has the unenviable ranking of being the sixth-largest consumer of alcohol in the world (WHO). Statistics show that young people are drinking from as young as 13 years of age, which is illegal.

“This image of me sucking on a cigar (10yrs ago) is an abominable reminder of my smoking days, had my last cigarette in 2012 and my first one at the age of 13. I had my first drink at the age of 9 and my last one and the last cocaine binge at the age of 30. I’m so excited about celebrating my 12th year of SOBRIETY on the 11th of August, I literally can’t wait!!!”

ALSO READ: Zoleka Mandela welcomes baby number 6 [watch]


Zoleka, who is the grandchild of Nelson Mandela and Winnie Madikizela Mandela, has previously spoken about her smoking and drinking habits.

In an Instagram post she wrote when she celebrated nine years of sobriety in 2019, the proud mom-of-six smoking cigarettes was a gateway into marijuana, magic mushrooms and ecstasy. This, for Zoleka, then led to her 10-year cocaine addiction and experimenting with heroin.

“I had my first drink at 9 and firstblack out at the age of 13, by then I had become an alcoholic and stole marijuana to feed my addiction, an attempt to numb my suicidal thoughtsself-blame, the feelings of self blame, anger and hurt from the sexual abuse and physical abuse I experienced as a 4-year-old child up until my teens,” Zoleka had written.

In her 2013 biography, When Hope Whispers, Zoleka speaks of herself as a survivor who overcame great tragedy, including beating breast cancer and her addiction.