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article imageOp-Ed: The other Mrs Mandela

By Alexander Baron     Jun 30, 2013 in Politics
As Nelson Mandela lies in a hospital bed close to death, his deification is nearly complete. What is all but forgotten is that his wife Winnie was anything but a saint.
There are two types of political revolution: the peaceful type and the other one. Martin Luther King had his detractors, but no one ever accused him of inciting or even condoning violence, much less making himself an accessory to murder. The same cannot be said for every champion of democracy, including Winnie Mandela.
Nomzamo Winifred Madikizela met Nelson Mandela in 1957, and married him the following year. She was his second wife; his first marriage ended in divorce, also in 1957.
Mandela was arrested in August 1962, and was not released until 1990. During that long period, Winnie Mandela became known as the faithful wife, but it appears now that she was not quite so faithful.
The contrast between the Lady - as she came to be known - and her husband, is stark. Although he was rightly convicted of serious terrorist offences, one might have expected Mandela to fester in prison, especially as he contracted tuberculosis due to the unsanitary conditions. Instead, he mellowed, but the same could not be said for his wife, who endorsed not simply terrorism, but common or garden child murder. As one none-to-subtle Apartheid era broadcast pointed out, for overseas news media she was a picture of reasonableness, but when addressing her supporters she told them they would liberate the country with necklaces.
The necklaces concerned were a particularly barbaric form of murder, which although apparently promised for whites, was used against black collaborators.
On one occasion when her car was stopped by the police, she told a white officer: "Don't touch me; you might have AIDS." Edifying stuff.
In 1989, four years before the murder of Stephen Lawrence, Mrs Mandela was implicated in the kidnapping and brutal murder of 14 year old Stompie Moeketsi by the so-called Mandela United football club. Although she avoided the major charge, she was convicted of kidnapping and of being an accessory, crimes for which she received a six year sentence, which was later reduced to a slap on the wrist.
In view of this and her adultery, it was hardly surprising that Nelson divorced her as soon as he could do so without making the wrong kind of headlines.
Although after their divorce, Winnie Mandela reverted to her maiden name, she was not divorced from politics, but like not a few politicians in other African countries, she proved to have sticky fingers, and in April 2003 she was convicted of no less than 68 counts of dishonesty for which she received a 5 year sentence which was again reduced to a slap on the wrist. In spite of this, her position was untenable, and she resigned her posts with the ANC, although she remained a member of the party.
With her ex-husband close to death and as his family and third wife keep vigil, she has reappeared, but it is difficult, to interpret this as anything but cynical self-publicising. It is also clear that however kindly history judges Nelson Mandela, the same will not be said for his second wife.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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