A fam­ily and a house

Alf Kumalo’s pic­tures of the Man­de­las in their Or­lando West home have many tales to tell, writes VIVIEN HOR­LER

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - WORLD -

NUM­BER 8115 Vi­lakazi Street, Or­lando West, was built in 1945, a two-roomed mu­nic­i­pal house iden­ti­cal to hun­dreds of oth­ers. It had a ce­ment floor, tin roof, a nar­row kitchen with a ce­ment sink, and a bucket toi­let at the back. Cur­tains sep­a­rated the two rooms, and there was a glossy, red-pol­ished stoep.

Its first res­i­dent wrote: “It was the very op­po­site of grand, but it was my first true home of my own.”

He was Nel­son Man­dela, and he moved in with his wife Eve­lyn and their son Them­bek­ile in 1946, pay­ing a monthly rent of 17 shillings and six­pence.

It might have been an or­di­nary house, but its res­i­dents meant 8115 Vi­lakazi Street’s his­tory has been ut­terly dif­fer­ent from its neigh­bours’. It has been raided, shot at, burned down, it has hosted the likes of Coretta Scott King, Muhammad Ali, Whit­ney Hous­ton and Tokyo Sexwale as a flee­ing stu­dent; it has been a refuge for hun­dreds and a vir­tual prison. It was the house Man­dela re­turned to af­ter his re­lease from prison in Fe­bru­ary 1990. Now it is a her­itage site and a mu­seum. For ob­vi­ous rea­sons, for much of its his­tory the fam­ily did not live at 8115 Vi­lakazi Street. Man­dela was, of course, in prison for 27 years; his sec­ond wife Win­nie Madik­izela, whom he mar­ried in 1958, spent years ban­ished to Brand­fort in the Free State; and their daugh­ters, Ze­nani and Zindzi, at­tended board­ing school in Swazi­land. But while they might not al­ways have been there, it was home.

Jour­nal­ist and nov­el­ist Zuk­iswa Wan­ner has done an ex­cel­lent job retelling the fam­ily his­tory. Ahmed Kathrada said last week dur­ing the 50th an­niver­sary com­mem­o­ra­tions of the ar­rests at Lil­liesleaf Farm that while the Rivonia pris­on­ers were on Robben Is­land, they were pro­tected in a way that peo­ple on the out­side were not.

One for­gets how ap­palling and un­re­lent­ing the ha­rass­ment of Win­nie was; she was banned, she lost var­i­ous jobs be­cause of the con­di­tions of her ban­ning or­der, the house was fre­quently raided by the po­lice, the au­thor­i­ties made her vis­its to Robben Is­land as dif­fi­cult as pos­si­ble.

She was brave – de­spite know­ing she was in the au­thor­i­ties’ sights, she never be­came her own jailer.

The text is au­thor­i­ta­tive and in­for­ma­tive, but the glory of it is in the pic­tures.

CLOSE: Ze­nani, Win­nie and Theresa, a friend of Ze­nani’s from Swazi­land, in 1985.

JULY 27 2013

BEST FRIENDS: Man­dela out­side the house with the fam­ily dog, Gompo, in 1959.

BRAVE: Win­nie at the gate of 8115.

8115 – A Pris­oner’s Home By Alf Kumalo and Zuk­iswa Wan­ner (Pen­guin)

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