Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, the former wife of Nelson Mandela and for decades one of South Africa’s most prominent and polarizing figures, died April 2 at a hospital in Johannesburg. She was 81.
Her family confirmed the death in a statement and said she had been hospitalized for an illness earlier this year.
At the time of her death, long after her divorce from the country’s first democratically elected president, Mrs. Madikizela-Mandela was still called the Mother of the Nation. And in many ways, she epitomized the so-called “new” South Africa far more than her idealized former husband.
She was beautiful and violent. Her bravery under the brutal apartheid regime won her lasting respect and adulation; allegations that she was the kingpin of a deadly vigilante group during the 1980s earned her fear and mistrust.
She was a political insider who often played the role of outsider. While other leaders moved to luxurious, previously all-white suburbs, Mrs. Madikizela-Mandela stayed in Soweto, the black township southwest of Johannesburg.
She at times harshly criticized the African National Congress — the political party that she also called her “family” — most recently condemning it for the continued economic disparity that has left millions of black South Africans in poverty. Yet since the end of apartheid in 1994, she served many roles in the South African government, from member of Parliament to the head of the ANC Women’s League.
In the late 2000s, she emerged again as a leading political player. She was one of the top vote-getters to the ANC’s executive committee and in 2008 was listed in the No. 5 slot on the party’s parliamentary ticket — above many other senior politicians and cabinet members.
Fraud convictions, insubordination and allegations of crimes from corruption to murder all seemed, at different points, to spell her downfall. Yet Mrs. Madikizela-Mandela always rebounded.
“I learned to deal with the police . . . to be tough . . . to survive,” she told a crowd at American University in 1996 after acknowledging that Americans must be “puzzled” by stories of her. “I want you to know where I come from so you can tell where I am headed. I’m like thousands of women in South Africa who lost their men to cities and prisons . . . I stand defiant, tall and strong.”
The start of a political life
Nomzamo Winifred Zanyiwe Madikizela was born in a remote, beautiful swath of South Africa called Pondoland on Sept. 26, 1936.
Her father, Columbus, was a schoolteacher, and although he appreciated missionaries — especially the Germans, who inspired him to add the “Winifred” to his daughter’s name — he taught local children a different type of history.
“We had our textbooks, naturally written by white men, and they had their interpretation,” Mrs. Madikizela-Mandela wrote in her 1984 autobiography, “Part of My Soul Went With Him.” “Then [Columbus] would put the textbook aside and say: ‘Now, this is what the book says, but the truth is: these white people invaded our country and stole the land from our grandfathers.’
“There is an anger that wakes up in you when you are a child and it builds up and determines the political consciousness of the black man,” she added.
Mrs. Madikizela-Mandela put a more political spin on her childhood than did her teachers and schoolmates, who told biographer Emma Gilbey that they remembered “Winnie” more for her looks than her ideas.
But soon after Mrs. Madikizela-Mandela obtained her social-work degree from the Jan Hofmeyr School in Johannesburg, she met Nelson Mandela. And then she became immersed in the resistance that would define modern-day South Africa.
Their first date was lunch at an Indian restaurant near Mandela’s law office. Sixteen years her senior, he was amused at her inability to eat the spicy curry.
She sat silently, wearing an uncomfortable borrowed suit she hoped would make her look more sophisticated than her 23 years, as a slew of advice-seekers stopped to chat with her well-known date. Later, as they walked through the countryside, Nelson asked for her help raising funds. Her sandal broke on the rocky path.
“Politicians are not lovers,” she told the South African television show “Carte Blanche” in 1992, recollecting that first day together.
Yet the two developed what others described as a passionate relationship. They held hands in public; they went to jazz clubs. There was the occasional blazing argument — such as when Nelson tried to teach Winnie how to drive — but Nelson seemed amused by the young woman’s fire, Gilbey wrote.
Not a year after their first date, Nelson showed Winnie the house of a dressmaker and told her she should get fitted. He asked how many bridesmaids she would like to have, Mrs. Madikizela-Mandela recalled in her autobiography.
“That’s how I was told I was getting married to him!” Mrs. Madikizela-Mandela said. “I asked, ‘What time?’ I was madly in love with him.”
The couple lived within the struggle against the apartheid regime as it instituted ever more oppressive laws. Winnie’s first incarceration came in 1958, when she joined mass protests laws that limited black women’s mobility.
She continued to battle the legal system for the rest of her life.
An international spotlight
The 1960 Sharpeville Massacre, in which police killed dozens of unarmed protesters, focused the world’s attention on South Africa — and on the Mandelas.
At the time, Nelson Mandela was one of the defendants in what would become known as the Treason Trial — a long-running case against dozens of people involved in the public creation of the Freedom Charter, which was a blueprint for what participants hoped would be a future democratic South Africa.
Nelson Mandela, who was not incarcerated during most of the trial, was intimately involved in organizing the group’s defense against allegations that it had plotted a violent overthrow of the government.
Although he had nothing to do with the violence at Sharpeville, Nelson Mandela was taken into custody soon after the massacre. Winnie — keen to give interviews — became his spokeswoman. Her role within the ANC began to shift from spouse to leader.
Although Nelson Mandela was found not guilty in 1961, he went into hiding soon thereafter. After he was captured and recharged, Winnie made front-page news when she arrived at her husband’s trial in traditional Tembu dress.
After he was sentenced to life in prison, she showed a brave face to the world, telling the BBC in a soft voice that she was relieved that her husband, the father of her two daughters, had not been sentenced to die.
Her courage would be tested. Over the next years she would be arrested, harassed and “banned” — forbidden from most social contact. She was the target of police informers. Beginning in 1969, she spent 18 months in solitary confinement.
She was interrogated without break. She was forced to sit upright, for days and nights, to the point that her body swelled and she blacked out.
“My whole body was badly swollen, I was passing blood,” she wrote in her memoir. “The whole experience is so terrible, because I had left little children at home in bed and I had no idea what had happened to them.”
She was given food, but it was often served in unrinsed sanitary pail lids. Often the food was covered in bird droppings.
She was contained by herself in a concrete cell, 5 feet by 10 feet; she slept on the floor. As the weeks passed, she became delirious.
Later, she was exiled to a shack in the remote town of Brandfort.
Yet as the state increasingly isolated her, her international profile grew. The ANC leadership connected her with journalists who wrote about how she had started a day care and had taught other women to plant vegetable gardens. Less publicized was her alleged increased drinking and extramarital relationships, or the questions about what she did with all those international donations to her social welfare programs in Brandfort.
“Our movement took a deliberate decision to profile Nelson Mandela as the representative personality of [political] prisoners, and therefore to use his personal biography, including the persecution of his then wife, Winnie Mandela, dramatically to present . . . the brutality of the apartheid system,” former president Thabo Mbeki wrote soon after leaving office in 2008.
The ANC needed her, but also struggled to control her.
When a defiant Mrs. Madikizela-Mandela returned to Soweto in 1985, it was a far more violent place than she had left, crawling with gangs and police brutality. Her rhetoric fit right in.
“We have no guns — we have only stones, boxes of matches and petrol,” she said at a rally in April 1986. “Together, hand in hand, with our boxes of matches and our necklaces, we shall liberate this country.”
“Necklacing” was a method of killing, often used against suspected police informants, in which a gasoline-soaked tire was forced around someone’s body and then set alight. The speech caused an international outcry, particularly in western capitals.
The same year, she helped form the Mandela United Football Club. Instead of a sports team, many neighbors viewed Mandela United as Mrs. Madikizela-Mandela’s personal gang. Soon, there were whispers of murders, abductions and hit lists.
Over New Year’s, 1988-89, a 14-year-old named James Moeketsi Seipei, or “Stompie,” disappeared from her house. Although she forcefully denied involvement, others later testified that she ordered — and even took part in — the murder of the teen.
The ANC Crisis Committee wrote to their leaders in exile, asking how to manage “this new ghastly situation that is developing before our very eyes.
Public unity, private discord
When Nelson Mandela left prison in 1990, Winnie was there, brilliant before the cameras; one hand in her husband’s, the other held aloft in a fist. But she was soon charged in connection with Stompie’s murder. Although witnesses disappeared, she was convicted of kidnapping and being an accessory to assault.
She never went to jail for the Stompie case. She appealed, and in June 1993 the court upheld her kidnapping conviction but overturned the accessory to assault conviction. Her sentence was suspended and she was ordered to pay a fine of R15,000.
Nelson continued to support his wife publicly, but rumors suggested all was not well in the Mandela marriage. In 1992, Nelson announced their separation. He was pained but gracious.
“She endured the persecutions heaped upon her by the government with exemplary fortitude and never wavered from her commitment to the struggle for freedom,” he said. “Her tenacity reinforced my personal respect, love and growing affection.”
Four years later, suing Winnie for divorce, he was less generous. When he emerged after 27 years in prison, he said, the woman he once called his “darling” had changed. She was blatant in her infidelity, he added, and cold. “I was the loneliest man during the time I stayed with her,” he said.
The judge granted the divorce, over Winnie’s protests.
In 1998, the country’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, chaired by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, condemned her for human rights violations after evidence from 30 witnesses.
Its final report read: “The Commission finds that Ms. Madikizela-Mandela was central to the establishment and formation of the Mandela United Football Club, which later developed into a private vigilante unit.”
It continued: “The Commission finds that those who opposed Ms. Madikizela-Mandela and the Mandela United Football Club, or dissented from them, were branded as informers and killed. The Commission finds that Ms. Madikizela-Mandela … is accountable, politically and morally, for the gross violations of human rights committed by the Mandela United Football Club.
“The Commission finds further that Ms. Madikizela-Mandela herself was responsible for committing such gross violations of human rights.”
She only apologized after an emotional plea from Tutu during the hearings.
But her followers — and her party — seemed to forgive, or ignore, these alleged trespasses.
She headed the ANC’s Women’s League and ran for deputy president, but resigned from all leadership positions after being found guilty in 2003 of fraud and theft in connection to a bank scam.
In the late 2000s, she emerged again as one of the country’s most popular politicians. The country’s youth continued to call her their hero, and government officials said the ANC would “never turn its back on Winnie.”
“Without condoning her misdemeanors, we must acknowledge that she is a victim, she is damaged and hurt,” said future South African president Kgalema Motlanthe, who at the time was ANC Secretary General. “When someone is subjected to the kind of consistent persecution and harassment she suffered from the apartheid system, something is bound to snap. We understand that and will always be there for her.”
Keyshia Cole’s Mom, Frankie Lons, Has Passed Away
Frankie Lons, the vibrant mother of singer Keyshia Cole, who became a popular figure after appearing on Keyshia Cole: The Way It Is in 2006, has passed away.
News of her death surfaced on Monday morning (July 19). Cole’s younger sister, Elite, who appeared on The Way It Is as well, confirmed the sad news. She took to her InstaStories to write, “Worse pain ever….to see my mama in a body bag on her birthday! My heart so f–kin broke.”
According to Cole’s brother Sam, said Lons relapsed and overdosed at her home on Sunday while celebrating her birthday.
Last year, Cole shared that Lons, who struggled with drugs off and on, checked into rehab and in February would have been there for 30 days. She was hopeful that her mom would finally be able to stay sober and be as healthy as possible for her children.
“Do you believe in the power of love?” she wrote alongside a photo of her next to her mom.”What about lack thereof? 50/50 There’s strength in knowing there’s something or someone you can always lean back on. Someone to catch u when u fall. I’ve been being strong for you, hoping I’ll get a chance to feel that feeling from you.”
Cole and her older sister, Neffeteria, haven’t spoken publicly on the news. During Cole’s latest reality series on BET, Keyshia Cole My New Life in 2019, the singer and Lons had a conversation about the possibility of her not being around, which Cole said, understandably, alarmed her.
“Some things happen out there in the streets and it scares a child, the thought,” Cole said.
“One day chicken the next day feathers. If I die today you’re going to move on and you’ve got to make it. You’ve got to live for Keyshia,” Lons replied. “You have to live for you and your family not nobody else. You don’t have to do nothin’ but die and pay taxes, but you have to move on if anything happens to me. At the end of the day you’ll see me later. Up there.”
She added, “I’m a be always where you can find me. Even when God calls me. A mother’s love will always protect you.”
Tennis Player Coco Gauff Tests Positive For COVID-19, Will Not Attend Olympics
17-year-old tennis player Cori “Coco” Gauff was slated to be on the U.S. tennis team at the upcoming Olympic Games, but has withdrawn after testing positive for COVID-19.
She broke the news via social media.
“I am so disappointed to share the news that I have tested positive for COVID and won’t be able to play in the Olympic Games in Tokyo,” she wrote in a note. “It has always been a dream of mine to represent the USA at the Olympics, and I hope there will be many more chances for me to make this come true in the future.” At #25, Gauff is the youngest player with a Women’s Tennis Association ranking in the top 100 .
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At 15, Gauff shocked the sports world when she beat tennis icon Venus Williams in the opening round of Wimbledon in 2019. She then bested Williams again during her Australian Open debut in January 2020 and defeated Naomi Osaka at the same event.
Gauff finished her statement by wishing all of her fellow athletes well. “I want to wish TEAM USA best of luck and a safe game for every Olympian and the entire Olympic family.”
Paul Mooney, comedian and writer for Richard Pryor, dies at 79
Paul Mooney, the comedian, actor and writer for Richard Pryor, died on Wednesday morning, his representative Cassandra Williams confirmed.
He died at his home in Oakland, Calif., after suffering a heart attack.
Mooney’s Twitter account also shared the news on Wednesday morning, posting “Thank you all from the bottom of all of our hearts…To all in love with this great man.”
Mooney served as the head writer on “The Richard Pryor Show” and co-wrote some of Pryor’s material on several of his comedy albums and his “Saturday Night Live” sketches. Mooney also wrote for “Sanford and Son,” “Good Times,” “In Living Color,” “Pryor’s Place,” “The Larry Sanders Show,” “Chappelle’s Show” and BET’s reality TV parody show “Real Husbands of Hollywood.”
In addition to his stand-up comedy, Mooney appeared in movies like “The Buddy Holly Story,” where he played Sam Cooke, “Bustin’ Loose,” “Hollywood Shuffle,” Spike Lee’s “Bamboozled” and most recently “Meet the Blacks” in 2016.
On Dave Chappelle’s Comedy Central show, Mooney played the recurring character Negrodamus, a Black version of the philosopher Nostradamus who specialized in answering questions like “Why do white people love Wayne Brady so much?” (Answer: “Because Wayne Brady makes Bryant Gumbel look like Malcolm X”).
Much of Mooney’s stand-up material focused on race. His sets at the 2005 BET Comedy Awards and the 2006 BET tribute to Black History Month skewered celebrities like Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, Oprah Winfrey, Lil’ Kim, Diana Ross, Flavor Flav, Terrell Owens and more.
In 2007, he published a memoir titled “Black Is the New White,” in which he discussed his relationship with Pryor and some of his most iconic and controversial comedy sets.