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Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, dies at 81

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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.

Continued allegiance

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.”

 

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BREAKING: Cobb DA Joyette Holmes Named Prosecutor In Ahmaud Arbery Case

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Georgia’s attorney general will appoint a new prosecutor in the Ahmaud Arbery case.

Attorney General Chris Carr will name Cobb District Attorney Joyette Holmes to take over the case, Belcher learned.

Belcher spoke to Holmes, who did not deny it but instead just referred him to the current special prosecutor, Thomas Durden.

The official announcement is expected later today, Belcher said.

Ahmaud Arbery, 25, was killed by a father and son as he jogged through their Glynn County neighborhood back in February. A video shot on a cellphone showed the confrontation between Arbery and the McMichaels after they confronted him with guns. It took 74 days for the McMichaels to be arrested and charged for Arbery’s death.


Gregory McMichael, 64, and Travis McMichael, 34

The McMichaels say that they suspected Arbery had broken into a home nearby that is under construction. Authorities said the McMichaels, thinking he was a burglary suspect, pursued him.

Arbery was shot and killed moments later.

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Fauci warns reopening states: ‘You can’t just leap over things’

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Dr. Anthony Fauci said Thursday that states reopening their economies “can’t just leap over things” that would potentially allow the coronavirus to rebound.

In an interview on NBC’s “TODAY” show, Savannah Guthrie asked Fauci whether the states that are beginning to reopen have the capability to do contact tracing and Fauci responded that while he can’t go through a list state by state, he urged states that don’t have that capability to “go very slowly.”

“You can’t just leap over things and get into a situation where you’re really tempting a rebound,” he said. “That’s the thing I get concerned about. I hope they don’t do that.”

Fauci said states should follow federal guidelines and only begin to reopen if they have a two-week decline in the number of new COVID-19 cases. He cautioned that states must have the capability of identifying, isolating and contact tracing people who test positive because “there will be blips — there’s no doubt.”

“When you pull back, there will be cases,” Fauci said.

As for a vaccine to prevent the coronavirus, Fauci confirmed that he has been working on the Trump administration’s “Operation Warp Speed” project that is seeking to move up the timeline of a drug as quickly as possible.

Asked if he thinks developing hundreds of millions of doses of a vaccine is doable by January, Fauci said, “Yeah, I do, Savannah.”

Fauci said that the U.S. is in the early phases of a trial for a vaccine and once researchers move into the next phase, they’re going to go “as quickly as we possibly can” to determine whether it’s safe. If they think that might be the case before that testing phase is completed, Fauci said the U.S. will start preemptively ramping up production of the vaccine in the hopes that it will work.

“I think that is doable if things fall in the right place,” he said about a January timeline.

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Las Vegas mayor faces backlash over plan to reopen amind coronavirus pandemic

Much of the criticism of Carolyn Goodman stems from a pair of television appearances.

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When Carolyn Goodman began her week, the independent mayor of Las Vegas probably didn’t anticipate that in a matter of days she would become one of the most-talked about public officials in the national conversation surrounding the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Only now she is, and in the eyes of critics, for all the wrong reasons.

It all stemmed from a pair of remarkable TV appearances — first on Tuesday with MSNBC’s Katy Tur and then Wednesday with CNN’s Anderson Cooper, in which she doubled down on her head-scratching plan to reopen the city’s casinos and hotels with no apparent guidelines in place to ensure safety.

On Wednesday, Nevada’s leaders united to send the three-term mayor a pointed message: Not so fast.

“We are clearly not ready to open,” Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) told Cooper Wednesday night, noting the number of coronavirus-related deaths and infections in the state are still climbing. According to the most recent figures kept by the state, Nevada has more than 4,000 reported cases and 187 reported deaths.

“We will rebuild our economy,” Sisolak said. “Las Vegas will continue to thrive, but I can’t do that if I lose more people. We need to protect their health and their well-being.”

Rep. Dina Titus (D-Nev.), whose district includes Las Vegas, echoed Sisolak’s comments, stressing in a separate CNN interview with host Don Lemon that lifting restrictions has to be done “the right way.”

“You can’t open up too soon,” she said, because doing so could “cause death or health problems for individuals and then the economy will tank even worse and it will take us longer and be harder to come back.”

Meanwhile, Nevada’s largest union issued a harsher critique, calling Goodman’s remarks “outrageous.” In a statement, the Culinary Workers Union said it has lost 11 members to the coronavirus.

The rebukes of Goodman came at the end of a yet another whirlwind day for the mayor, who this week injected herself into the ongoing national debate over how to balance mitigating the country’s coronavirus outbreak against rising concerns of economic depression by pushing to reopen Las Vegas’s casinos and hotels under the assumption that “everybody is a carrier” of the new virus.

“Let the businesses open and competition will destroy that business if, in fact, they become evident that they have disease, they’re closed down,” Goodman, 81, told MSNBC’s Tur on Tuesday. “It’s that simple.”

Those comments raised eyebrows, and ridicule, nationally. While other public officials have urged swift reopenings of local business, most have based their argument on the idea that it’s safe to do so. Meanwhile, Goodman is advancing what Tur described as a “modern-day survival of the fittest.”

But rather than retreat into a moment of self-examination or soul-searching amid the outcry, Goodman wasted no time venturing onto a show hosted by one of television’s cleverest interviewers, who has voiced outrage at the acts of officials elsewhere who seem to be rushing to reopen.

Cooper gave her 25 minutes, a supersized segment by TV standards. It was no contest.

She swiftly went off the rails. He alternated between dramatic expressions of exasperation and bewilderment. Over the course of the interview, Goodman, who has been a vocal critic of Nevada’s lockdown order, argued that the responsibility is on businesses, not her, to find a way to open safely and appeared to suggest she had offered her city to be a “control group” for the virus.

“We offered to be a control group,” she said. “I did offer. It was turned down.”

Wednesday’s interview began amicably enough until Cooper started pressing Goodman about whether it is safe for her to be “encouraging hundreds of thousands of people” to flock to casinos where they will smoke, drink, gamble, touch slot machines and breathe recirculated air for hours on end before returning to their home states and countries.

“Doesn’t that sound like a virus petri dish?” Cooper asked.

“No, it sounds like you’re being an alarmist,” Goodman shot back.

This back-and-forth played out throughout the interview: Goodman trying to stay on message against Cooper as he voiced and displayed through facial expressions ever-mounting incredulity. At one point, he even took off his glasses to rub his eyes with both hands.

Any semblance of a conventional interview vanished entirely when Cooper displayed a graphic that showed how the virus could spread from a single carrier in a restaurant in China to multiple diners nearby, prompting Goodman to cut in.

“This isn’t China,” she interjected, “this is Las Vegas, Nevada.”

“Wow, okay, that’s really ignorant,” Cooper said. “That’s a restaurant, and yes it’s in China, but they are human beings, too.”

Not long after the interview, Goodman was trending on social media as many viewers dissected her performance.

“Anderson Cooper may have just ended her career,” tweeted professional poker player Daniel Negreanu. “I couldn’t imagine a public official coming off worse in an interview. There should be a mercy rule.”

Cooper, however, wasn’t the only person put off by Goodman’s remarks Wednesday.

While the mayor doesn’t have jurisdiction over the Las Vegas Strip, the four-mile stretch of hotels and casinos is south of the city limits in unincorporated Clark County, her comments prompted full-throated rebuttals from state leaders Wednesday night, who urged people to continue following social distancing guidelines.

“We need to send a sincere message and a consistent message,” Sisolak, the Nevada governor, told Cooper. “It’s difficult when we get one person that’s leading people astray, and I’m disappointed in that.”

Sisolak and Titus, the Nevada representative, were also taken aback by Goodman’s apparent suggestion that Las Vegas could be a virus “control group.”

“I will not allow the citizens of Nevada, our Nevadans, to be used as a control group, as a placebo, whatever she wants to call it,” Sisolak said.

Later on “CNN Tonight with Don Lemon,” Titus urged Goodman to “listen to the scientists and the health-care specialists and stop talking about my constituents as though they’re guinea pigs in some grand experiment that she’s trying to conduct.”

Goodman also drew ridicule from one other high-profile figure Wednesday: late-night host Jimmy Kimmel, who grew up in Las Vegas.

On Twitter, Kimmel slammed the mayor as “dangerously misguided,” writing, “I am not easily shocked anymore, but the interview she is doing … right now is bonkers.”

“Carolyn Goodman should resign before lunch arrives today,” he wrote in another tweet. “She is an embarrassment to my hometown.”

He went on to revisit Wednesday’s interview in a scathing monologue on his ABC show.

“Mayor Goodman has a lot of thoughts,” he said, “and the one thing those thoughts have in common is that none of them make any sense.”

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