More recently, Mrs. Bhasikile passes something else on her walk: a sprawling complex with gleaming porcelain toilets, showers and faucets that gush water with a flick of the wrist. The complex includes a cavernous meeting hall, a tribal courtroom and a private residence for the village chief. And not just any chief — the man in charge here is Mandla Mandela, favored grandson of Mr. Mandela.
But the truck that fills the water tanks at the Great Place, as the hulking set of buildings is known, does not stop at Mrs. Bhasikile’s house.
“That water is not for us; it is for them,” she said with a disapproving grunt as she walked up the craggy hillside, 40 liters of water astride each of her three donkeys. As for Chief Mandla, Mrs. Bhasikile is unimpressed despite his pedigree. “He is not like his grandfather,” she said.
The disgruntlement among Chief Mandla’s subjects mirrors the disappointment many South Africans feel about the generations that have succeeded the heroes of this nation’s liberation struggle. Mr. Mandela’s death on Thursday in many ways is the end of the line for the cohort of leaders who carried the battle against apartheid from a lonely and seemingly hopeless struggle to an inevitable moral and political victory cheered by much of the world. Other lions of the struggle, like Oliver Tambo, Walter and Albertina Sisulu and Joe Slovo, have been dead for years.
Perhaps inevitably, the following generations of leaders have struggled to live up to their legacy. Mr. Mandela’s successor as president, Thabo Mbeki, was roundly criticized for his resistance to broadly accepted methods of treating and preventing AIDS, a stance that added to the nation’s death toll from the disease, researchers concluded. South Africa’s current president, Jacob Zuma, has been under a cloud for years, investigated in corruption and rape cases.
Younger leaders like the firebrand Julius Malema have attracted a following among disgruntled, jobless youth, but his radical views and harsh criticism of older leaders got him expelled from Mr. Mandela’s party, the African National Congress. And the children of some families deeply involved in the struggle against apartheid — the Mandelas, the Tambos and others — have largely shied away from politics.
“In all of the great liberation movements there is the problem of producing great leaders to take over,” said William Gumede, an analyst who has written extensively about Mr. Mandela. “But in this case, there has really been a failure to pass the torch.”
Mr. Mandela is often called the father of the new South Africa, and he leaves behind an impressive legacy, even if the future of his metaphoric child, the Rainbow Nation, remains uncertain. But the story of his flesh-and-blood family has been marked by missteps, tragedy and neglect — a legacy of Mr. Mandela’s admitted failings as a husband and father amid the battle against apartheid and his decades of imprisonment.
His former wife, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, is a polarizing figure, as underscored when the bodies of two young men last seen severely beaten at her house 25 years ago were unearthed in Soweto this year. Their deaths were connected to the Mandela United Football Club, a thuggish group that she used as her security team. She would eventually be sentenced to prison twice, though she never actually served a term because one sentence was reduced to a fine and another was suspended.
Mr. Mandela’s daughters with Mrs. Madikizela-Mandela have also suffered in the harsh glare of the spotlight. One daughter, Zindzi Mandela, has long been a fixture in the tabloid press, the subject of stories about her penchant for lavish birthday parties and her extensive personal debts.
One of Mr. Mandela’s sons-in-law, Isaac Amuah, was charged with rape in 2010. One of his grandsons, Zondwa Mandela, has been implicated along with a nephew of the current president, Mr. Zuma, in a deal that stripped the assets of a gold mine while leaving its 3,000 workers unpaid.
Mandla Mandela, the eldest grandson, was at the center of a public battle with the more than a dozen family members in recent months over where three of Nelson Mandela’s children, and eventually the leader himself, would be buried, leading to court-ordered exhumations.
And a separate squabble over a trust fund that Mr. Mandela set up for his descendants has led to a tense fight between two of his daughters and one of his oldest friends, resulting in a bitter exchange of affidavits in which the Mandela sisters are portrayed as impatient to get their hands on the money set aside for future generations.