The mother of the nation is not more

Winnie Mandela walked ahead in the streets of Soweto during the darkest days of apartheid, but the controversy she could never quite shake off.

In the story about South Africa were there except black and white, two opposites. You had Nelson Mandela, the cheerful grandpa, who after 27 years in prison for his enemies forgave. And then you had …

In the story about South Africa were there except black and white, two opposites. You had Nelson Mandela, the cheerful grandpa, who after 27 years in prison for his enemies forgave. And then you had Winnie Madikizela Mandela, to whom far before their separation, the controversy followed the rumors about extramarital relationships, the violence of her bodyguards and never clarified which role they would have played in the murder of a 13-year-old boy, Stompie Seipei. Nelson the light, Winnie the pooh, the dark.

That alleged contradiction held until her death Monday, when she unexpectedly succumbed to a lung infection, 81 years old. Even though there were still moments when it became clear that many black South Africans something different saw than the anti-hero in the persistent narration ever of her was made. Last december: the African National Congress (ANC) is meeting in Nasrec, south of Johannesburg, to the successor of Jacob Zuma, is still such a controversy, to choose. The atmosphere is tense. The party threatens to fall apart between persistent supporters of Zuma and the new leader of the party, Cyril Ramaphosa. Then comes Winnie the pooh to the stage and bursting at the hall of los in noise. She explains Zuma and Rampahosa’s hands together and smiling broadly. Winnie, the mother of the nation. Winnie the verzoener.

Clenched fist

A year and a half before she celebrated her 80th birthday in an auditorium in Cape town, the whitest city in the country. Two entrances zwiepten open, and in the light from outside the room to inside fell, appeared Winnie. The hall exploded. Left and right climb up to the South Africans on their chairs. There were fists in the air. Win-nie Man-deeeela, she said. The ground trembled under the pounding feet.

Those moments highlighted what Winnie for South Africans meant when Nelson was in jail and most of the leaders of the ANC schuilden in exile. Winnie was the one who first walked in the streets of Soweto during the darkest days of apartheid, with clenched fist and seemingly unfazed by the endless harassment of the apartheid regime.
Winnie escaped although the almost lifelong imprisonment of the man with whom she in 1957 at the age of six years he was behind the bars disappeared. But as a bottom, she was constantly the target of harassment. She was several times placed under house arrest and during politieverhoren tortured. In 1969, she was 18 months locked up in a padded cell. Over that period she wrote later in the book, 491 Days, Prisoner Number 1323/69. ‘I am reduced to a nobody, of no value. This is like being buried alive. I live only because I breathe.’ In the solitary confinement she was seriously ill, she will get lung problems and she loses a lot of weight.


Once in Soweto in 1976 in months of protests breaking out against apartheid and education in the African and Winnie vooropgaat in the battle with the South African apartheidspolitie, it is relegated to the depressing village of Brandfort, in the Free state. For more than a day’s drive away from Soweto and the place where, around 1900, the British, the Afrikaner Farmers lock in the first concentration camps.
As the documentary ’Winnie’ from director Pascal Lamche last year showed, it was Winnie the grateful target of Stratcom, the pr-company of the apartheid regime, that finger in the place of negative news about Winnie in the South African newspapers.

That operation had the code name Romelus and the man who have this surgery resulted, Vic McPherson, explains in the film how he spent over 40 journalists on his payroll had ‘directly or indirectly’ for Stratcom worked to ensure that the stories that Winnie could damage, the front pages were. These included not only the stories about her extramarital relationships that they, among others, had with the lawyer Dali Mpofu. Winnie was also portrayed as the evil mastermind behind the murder of Stompie, that by Winnies guards suspected was an informant of the apartheid regime. During the hearing it turned out exactly the other way around: the killer, Jerry Richardson, had proved itself an informer of the regime and made a deal with the apartheid regime.

Winnie was sentenced to a fine, because her involvement could not be demonstrated. After the takeover of power by the ANC made the new minister of Justice, again contact with Richardson, and the case is re-raked by the trc. There speak all witnesses against each other about Winnies involvement. Desmond Tutu pleaded with Winnie for a full room to make her excuses to offer: ‘Your majesty would only be confirmed when you said: I’m sorry, there are things went wrong’. In the film crack Winnie in anger over the spectacle of Tutu: ‘I was furious. I had now to offer my apologies for apartheid?’


Stompie was always on her stick. Her marriage with Nelson Mandela walked on the cliffs. They divorced in 1996. This happened under pressure of the ANC. Leaders such as Thabo Mbeki, saw the unpredictability and popularity of Winnie as a threat to the party and their own position, and tried to get her to isolate. There were allegations of fraud around the abuse of a death benefit fund. Before that, she was in 2003 to 5 years in prison convicted. Then she had her parlementszetel and the presidency of the Vrouwenliga of the ANC to give up. The sentence was on appeal, converted into a conditional sentence, which they never did. They remained popular within the party. In 2009 ended up they are still fifth on the electoral list of the ANC.

But the quarrels continued. After Nelson Mandela’s death drew Winnie protest against his last will and testament to his home in Qunu in the Eastern Cape to obtain. The objection was rejected. This underlined them, even at a high age, that they always have trouble with the breakage and the degradation of its reputation. In one of her last interviews, she told how they feel after the release of Mandela suddenly realized of anti-apartheidsstrijder to be reduced to only ‘the woman’. But without Mandela, his name she kept until her death, lost the old glory also the shine that they so long had.

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