Tuesday, March 9, 2010 at 3:07 PM
Truth be told, there was always a disconnect between Winnie Mandela’s behavior and the Joan-of-Arc vestments she wore during the last throes of Apartheid rule in South Africa. More to the point, her behavior always gave the impression that those vestments were covering up character traits that were more Idi Amin than Indira Gandhi.
But anti-Apartheid supporters in the West overlooked her intemperate, boorish, and even murderous ways because we considered her a rebel with a cause. This included, most notably, giving Winnie a pass when she allegedly incited members of her entourage (a.k.a. the Mandela United Football Club) – who served variously as her bodyguards, political enforcers, and … boy toys – to beat a young South African boy to death in 1988. (She was convicted and sentenced to six years, but her sentence was suspended and she got off with a simple fine.)
In any event, I suspect most of us were finally disabused of all hope that she would ever reconcile her behavior with those vestments when it became clear that neither marriage to a freed Nelson Mandela nor the black rule for which she struggled so heroically was enough to satiate her promiscuous political ambition.
Therefore, it was clearly just a matter of time before spiteful bile came pouring out of this woman scorned – presumably not only by Nelson (who divorced her in 1996) but also by the new black leadership (which has refused to honor her as the “mother of the nation” in ways she no doubt expected).
Well, here comes the bile. It flows from an interview conducted by Nadira Naipaul (wife of internationally acclaimed Trinidadian writer V.S. Naipaul), excerpts of which were published yesterday in the London newspaper The Evening Standard.
Here are just some of the things Winnie is now saying about Mandela – a man who, by all accounts, wore the vestments of a political saint and savior as well as any mortal ever could:
This name Mandela is an albatross around the necks of my family. You all must realise that Mandela was not the only man who suffered. There were many others, hundreds who languished in prison and died.
Mandela did go to prison and he went in there as a young revolutionary but look what came out.
Mandela let us down. He agreed to a bad deal for the blacks. Economically we are still on the outside. The economy is very much “white”.
I cannot forgive him for going to receive the Nobel with his jailer de Klerk. Hand in hand they went. Do you think de Klerk released him from the goodness of his heart? He had to. The times dictated it, the world had changed.
Mandela is now like a corporate foundation. He is wheeled out globally to collect the money.
Frankly, even though she has been effectively marginalized as a political voice in South Africa, and even though what she says about him probably couldn’t matter any less to Mandela, this must disappoint, if not outrage, anyone who cares about his legacy.
Never mind that if it were up to Winnie, and not Nelson, the Mandela name today would be analogous to that of Mugabe. Which makes me wonder why this South African Beelzebub is still being fêted all over America – as she is this week. Enough said…?
I just pray Michelle won’t be saying similar things about “this name Obama” someday – given Barack’s pragmatic determination to emulate Mandela’s art of political compromise … with friends and foe alike.
NOTE: Not surprisingly, Winnie’s remarks spread like wildfire throughout South African on Tuesday. The ANC claims that it sought immediate clarification. But party spokesman Ismael Mnisi told the BBC that “she has not gotten back to us”. No kidding.