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Mandela's Granddaughter: My Battle Of Survival

Nelson Mandela's granddaughter Zoleka has told Sky News how her grandparents inspired her in her battle to beat breast cancer.

Her interview with Sky comes as a leading South African newspaper reported her grandfather could no longer speak because of all the "tubes that are in his mouth to clear (the fluid off) his lungs".

The South African Sunday Independent splashed the news across its front page this morning following an interview with Mandela's second wife, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela. 

The former South African president is considered to be medically stable by doctors although still critical and is being cared for at a 24-hour medical unit set up at his home in Houghton, a suburb of Johannesburg.

The newspaper reports that Mr Mandela now communicates using facial gestures.

"He can't actually articulate anything," the newspaper reported Mr Mandela's ex-wife as saying.

The news coincides with the publication of a book by Zoleka in which she charts her painful journey with breast cancer, but also goes into startling detail about her drink, drug and sex addiction and touches on her childhood sexual abuse.

She stops short of explaining who was responsible for the sex abuse or how it happened.

"That's a story for another book," she told me when we met.

"It's still too painful."

The life of 33-year-old Zoleka has been anything but staid.

Her book, When Hope Whispers, begins with the words: "By the time I was born, on 9 April 1980, my mother (Zindzi Mandela) knew how to strip and assemble an AK-47 in exactly 38 seconds.

"She was 20 years old, trained in guerrilla warfare and already a full-fledged member of Umkhonto we Sizwe (the armed wing of the African National Congress)."

Her family's fight against South Africa's apartheid laws, which discriminated between different skin colours, dominated their lives and left a personal legacy which they are still coping with.

For Zoleka that meant a descent into drink and drug addiction and multiple sexual partners - but also the loss of two children; one was killed in a car accident, the other died after being born prematurely. And now, it has meant coping with breast cancer.

Zoleka said when she was first diagnosed she refused treatment for three months.

"I think I was in denial," she said.

She feared the chemotherapy and surgery would mean she would be unable to be a healthy mother to her surviving son.

It is a decision she regrets and the aim of the book, she says, is to provide some hope and inspiration to others coping with addictions, loss of children or a potentially terminal disease.

She detailed her chemotherapy in video blogs and pictures too. They show her hair being shorn and a sobbing Zoleka speaking about the pain of being bald. "I feel so ugly," she says.

She was persuaded by her medical team to save her eggs so she could possibly try for a family in the future but talks movingly about how heartbreaking it was for her to come to terms with the fact that with a double bilateral mastectomy, she would never be able to breastfeed again, should she become pregnant.

And she pays tribute to her grandparents. Her grandmother Winnie was by her side through much of her cancer treatment.

"Having the name I have, means there is a certain responsibility that I can't run away from," she said.

"And one of the things I learned from my grandparents is that everyone has the power to make a difference in other people's lives, no matter how difficult their own circumstances, and that's what I'm trying to do."