CityPress - - News - HLENGIWE NHLABATHI hlengiwe.nhlabathi@city­ How do you think Win­nie Madik­ize­laMan­dela should be re­mem­bered?

In her fi­nal days, strug­gle icon Win­nie Madik­izela-Man­dela flatly re­fused to use the wheel­chair she was of­fered. “Ndiza­kun­gena en­gx­oweni [I will be sit­ting in a sack]. I will never sit on the wheel­chair,” was her fi­nal an­swer. She in­sisted on only us­ing her blue crutch, de­spite her de­te­ri­o­rat­ing health.

Busi­ness­man and strug­gle vet­eran Tokyo Sexwale gig­gles about Madik­izela-Man­dela’s “asoze” (I will never) at­ti­tude dur­ing their last phone con­ver­sa­tion, a week be­fore she died.

“She be­lieved in walk­ing tall.” He says her at­ti­tude was to “defy grav­ity just like she de­fied the boers”.

“I of­fered her a wheel­chair and she re­fused. She pre­ferred to walk. Then I said to her ‘but then you have a third leg’. And she then said that was far bet­ter than to sit.”

Madik­izela-Man­dela had asked for many wheel­chairs, but they were meant for other peo­ple.

Sexwale says he and Madik­izela-Man­dela had a tough love, mother-and-son re­la­tion­ship. He was one of her go-to peo­ple in times of fi­nan­cial need. Money ran like sand through her fin­gers. She just gave it away.

Some­times it would an­noy Sexwale, who helped look af­ter her and her fam­ily.

“It’s like ev­ery poor per­son knew – if you are needy just go to her house. What­ever funds Win­nie had, be it from her [MP’s] salary or what­ever she asked from peo­ple, she would give to oth­ers.

“You would say to her ‘keep this or bank this and try and get in­ter­est’. A week later it would all be gone. She would have given it to some­one.

“I used to get an­noyed when she asked for as­sis­tance and when you give to her, a month later, she doesn’t have it. Even her chil­dren would say ‘up­hisene’ [she gave it away].”

Sexwale de­scribes Madik­izela-Man­dela as “one of the worst fi­nan­cial man­agers”.

“Win­nie had many peo­ple who as­sisted her. But there is one thing about her: She was a ter­ri­ble fi­nan­cial man­ager. Ter­ri­ble.”

He bought her a ma­roon Volk­swa­gen bee­tle, iden­ti­cal to the one she used to drive around Soweto in when he was young. She never drove the re­place­ment. Sexwale says he was told she would just sit in it. He does not know what hap­pened to it and as­sumes she gave it away too.

Sexwale says get­ting an­gry and ig­nor­ing her calls would not help, be­cause ei­ther the guilt made him call her back, or she would be at his front door. Also, she could lure one to her house and spoil you with her spe­cial breyani, samp, dumplings or a pig roast.

“Some­times I would say to her ‘money doesn’t grow on trees’, but she would say ‘make it grow on trees’. Some­times she would use harsh words against me as though I am the en­emy, but a week later I’m her son.

“I knew when the poor got to her, be­cause I be­came her son. She was a mother to the dirty, the un­washed, the sick – she couldn’t help it.

“Many, many peo­ple also helped, but all of it was like sand in her hands be­cause she would end up with noth­ing.

“She was a per­ma­nent fundraiser for peo­ple. She has noth­ing. I can as­sure you, she died with noth­ing.”

Sexwale sits in the board of the Nelson Man­dela Foun­da­tion. He says Madik­ize­laMan­dela and her chil­dren never ben­e­fited from their sur­name, or from hav­ing a states­man for a fa­ther. They never stole a penny from the public purse and had to fend for them­selves.

Be­fore Madik­izela-Man­dela was ban­ished to Brand­fort, a young Sexwale would of­ten see this beau­ti­ful woman driv­ing her ma­roon bee­tle. But they dared not stare when her car ap­proached be­cause that would make her sus­pect they were spies.

He went to Or­lando West High School, not far from the Man­dela’s Vi­lakazi Street home.

Aged 17 and a few months be­fore he ma­tric­u­lated, Sexwale be­came part of the fur­ni­ture at her house. He of­ten ran er­rands for the banned and house-bound Madik­ize­laMan­dela, and soon earned enough trust to be sent on se­cret po­lit­i­cal mis­sions.

“A lot of things hap­pened at that house, from re­cruit­ments to Umkhonto weSizwe to schol­ar­ships to study abroad. All that vir­tu­ally hap­pened un­der the noses of the boers. I saw the tears of hap­pi­ness when she would say she is go­ing to Robben Is­land. I also saw the other tears – hot ones – when she came back.

“Then she would go to the bed­room and slouch on the bed with­out shoes and start cry­ing. She has left her hus­band in jail. What life is it? She can’t even leave the house, im­pris­oned in her own home. Win­nie went through things, but her courage knew no bounds.”

Sexwale says Madik­izela-Man­dela’s life was far too com­pli­cated for one to judge her.

“She was not stand­ing there like a good old Maria. This woman sym­bol­ised the strength of our peo­ple when there was no one in South Africa.” SMS us on 35697 us­ing the key­word WIN­NIE and tell us what you think. Please in­clude your name and prov­ince. SMSes cost R1.50

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