WIN­NIE’S BRANDFORT LEGACY LIES IN RU­INS

The Brandfort house to which the strug­gle icon was ban­ished in 1977 is now a dump where used con­doms and dagga butts cover the floors

CityPress - - Front Page - POLOKO TAU poloko.tau@city­press.co.za

Abreeze wafts through a bro­ken win­dow and over grimy floors clut­tered with used con­doms and other junk. This is the house strug­gle icon Win­nie Madik­izela-Man­dela lived in for eight years. Here at house num­ber 802 in Ma­jwe­masweu town­ship out­side Brandfort, the small Free State town to which the apartheid gov­ern­ment ban­ished her in 1977, she slept, cooked and wrote let­ters to her then hus­band, Nel­son Man­dela.

To­day, the only sign she once lived there is a sign in the long grass, which gives in­for­ma­tion of a failed at­tempt to re­store the house and turn it into a mu­seum. Out­side the main house stands a rusty, framed struc­ture, once a clinic and com­mu­nity cen­tre that Madik­izela Man­dela es­tab­lished, but that was bombed by apartheid se­cu­rity forces in 1985.

Through cu­ra­to­rial items and the house be­ing left mostly in its orig­i­nal form, vis­i­tors were sup­posed to come to learn about Madik­izela-Man­dela’s life of iso­la­tion in Brandfort, also, iron­i­cally, home to apartheid’s ar­chi­tect, Hen­drik Ver­wo­erd. Her move­ments were al­ways closely mon­i­tored by a po­lice of­fi­cer on a kop­pie nearby.

But, R1.8 mil­lion later, it re­mains aban­doned with patched walls and eroded mem­o­ries, a sore re­minder of an il­lus­tri­ous legacy of the woman lo­cals still fondly call Mama Win­nie.

Res­i­dents say the house went from be­ing a sym­bol of hope to one syn­ony­mous with all man­ner of so­cial ills: one in which women are raped, where adul­ter­ous quick­ies take place and drug users hide out.

The floors – strewn with bro­ken booze bot­tles, used con­doms and wrap­pers, match­boxes, mar­i­juana joints and old cloth­ing – bear tes­ti­mony to what hap­pens here in the dark.

For­mer teacher No­rah Moahloli, who be­friended Madik­izela-Man­dela in the 1970s, re­called how the strug­gle icon was branded a com­mu­nist and how the pub­lic was not al­lowed to talk to her.

“We weren’t sup­posed to even re­spond to her greet­ing from be­hind the fence where she lived in iso­la­tion, but, in the end, her an­gelic spirit came out and we could not run away from her any more as she be­gan to up­lift our com­mu­nity,” she said.

There is a crèche that still op­er­ates to­day at a lo­cal Methodist church, as well as soup kitchens, sewing projects and many other com­mu­nity ini­tia­tives Madik­izela-Man­dela founded. So a mu­seum would save peo­ple from dig­ging for traces of Mama Win­nie’s legacy, which lives on in the dusty town­ship more than three decades later.

“I was happy [think­ing] that the mu­seum project was go­ing to end all crim­i­nal ac­tiv­i­ties at this house. But at the rate things are go­ing, some­one will soon get killed or die from drugs there. I also don’t feel safe liv­ing next to Ma’ Win­nie’s house, when I should be proud of it,” said 77-year-old Betty France, who lives next door.

France won­dered what hap­pened to the project af­ter money was set aside for it. Part of her fence was re­moved by men dig­ging trenches in prepa­ra­tion for con­struc­tion, but it all ended there. “They left my fence [wide open],” she com­plained. Ac­cord­ing to In­de­pen­dent De­vel­op­ment Trust (IDT), the depart­ment of arts and cul­ture ini­tially al­lo­cated R3 mil­lion to the project, of which R1 858 195.71 was trans­ferred to them as an im­ple­ment­ing agent to over­see the project.

They ap­pointed a con­trac­tor for R2.5 mil­lion in Novem­ber 2013, but ter­mi­nated the con­tract one year later be­cause the con­trac­tor failed to do the job.

By then, the IDT had spent R593 622 on con­sul­tancy fees, in­clud­ing one pay­ment for R117 543 “mainly for pre­lim­i­nar­ies and gen­eral site es­tab­lish­ment and earth­works”, said IDT spokesper­son Le­sego Mashigo.

He said the scope of work was later re­duced, bring­ing the project down to R1.36 mil­lion. Other fea­tures such as the youth cen­tre were scrapped.

“The IDT was await­ing ap­proval from the depart­ment to pro­ceed with the ap­point­ment of a [sec­ond] con­trac­tor for the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the re­duced scope of work when its agree­ment was ter­mi­nated on Novem­ber 9 2016,” he said.

“A process of ced­ing all the doc­u­men­ta­tion, as­sets and li­a­bil­i­ties to [the depart­ment] is un­der way. The re­main­ing amount of R1 264 573.42 re­mains in the trust ac­count of the [depart­ment].”

PHO­TOS: TE­BOGO LET­SIE

DERELICT Madik­izela-Man­dela’s for­mer house in Brandfort

RE­MINDER The clinic in Brandfort that was bombed by the apartheid gov­ern­ment

CON­FI­DANTE Brandfort’s for­mer pri­mary school teacher, No­rah Moahloli, was Win­nie Madik­ize­laMan­dela’s close friend in the 1970s

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