Juju stokes the fires

Malema leads the charge for Win­nie’s legacy at her funeral

The Sunday Independent - - Front Page - BALD­WIN NDABA, KHAYA KOKO AND LOYISO SIDIMBA

AS THE world paid homage to Win­nie Madik­izela-Man­dela yes­ter­day, lead­ers of var­i­ous po­lit­i­cal par­ties in the coun­try tried to out­smart each other in pay­ing trib­utes to the lib­er­a­tion icon, in what seemed a jock­ey­ing for her legacy. This was as they tried to gain rel­e­vance, and po­lit­i­cal mileage out of the of­fi­cial funeral of Madik­izela-Man­dela, who died on April 2.

EFF leader Julius Malema ap­peared to live up to his self-styled im­age as the king­maker, call­ing on the gov­ern­ing ANC to name Cape Town In­ter­na­tional Air­port af­ter Madik­izela-Man­dela.

Malema tore into the ANC and lead­ers of other po­lit­i­cal for­ma­tions as he sought to re­mind them that they had turned their backs on the “Mother of the Na­tion”. He said nam­ing Cape Town’s air­port af­ter Madik­izela-Man­dela would be a fit­ting way to demon­strate their com­mit­ment to hon­our­ing her legacy.

The fire­brand EFF leader, who had a close re­la­tion­ship with Madik­izela-Man­dela, re­ferred to her fondly as “mama” dur­ing his ad­dress. Their bond goes back to his days as the leader of the ANC Youth League.

Malema had led a del­e­ga­tion of thou­sands of EFF mem­bers and sup­port­ers, which he called “the red wave”, who were re­splen­dent in their sig­na­ture colour, and were seated among ANC sup­port­ers. He said in­di­vid­u­als who had stood against Madik­izela-Man­dela in the early 1990s were now mourn­ing her death.

“Equally big Mama, some of those who sold you to the regime are here and are cry­ing louder than all of us who stood by you.

“The UDF ca­bal that dis­tanced it­self from you is here, cry­ing croc­o­dile tears af­ter dis­own­ing you at a crit­i­cal mo­ment, hop­ing the regime will fin­ish you off,” Malema told the thou­sands of mourn­ers at Or­lando Sta­dium in Soweto.

He was re­fer­ring to the time when she was ac­cused of be­ing in­volved in young ac­tivist Stom­pie Seipei’s death. The icon was later cleared of this charge.

“All those who re­signed from the NEC of the Women’s League be­cause they said they can’t be led by a crim­i­nal, they are here play­ing all-im­por­tant roles at your funeral. Can we trust them or should we treat them with sus­pi­cion maWin­nie?” he asked to loud ap­plause.

The funeral was at­tended by in­ter­na­tional dig­ni­taries, in­clud­ing su­per­model Naomi Camp­bell and sev­eral heads of states.

Malema re­minded the mourn­ers that Madik­izela-Man­dela fought against apartheid fear­lessly.

Seem­ingly not to be out­done, Pres­i­dent Cyril Ramaphosa an­nounced that Madik­izela-Man­dela would be posthu­mously be­stowed with the ANC’s high­est hon­our, the Isith­wa­landwe-Sea­par ankoe.

“I will make a pro­posal to the ANC na­tional ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee to be­stow on you its high­est hon­our,” Ramaphosa said to thun­der­ous ap­plause from the packed sta­dium, not far from Madik­izela-Man­dela’s home in Or­lando West.

Ramaphosa con­ceded, while de­liv­er­ing his eu­logy, that the coun­try and his party had failed to hon­our and sup­port Madik­izela-Man­dela while she was fac­ing a vi­cious “smear cam­paign” by the apartheid regime’s agents and spies. His ad­mis­sion came af­ter apartheid agents openly ad­mit­ted that they were re­spon­si­ble for the neg­a­tive me­dia re­ports and ac­cu­sa­tions that Madik­izela-Man­dela was in­volved in the mur­der of Seipei.

“She suf­fered alone,” Ramaphosa told thou­sands of mourn­ers who ar­rived at the Or­lando Sta­dium to pay their last re­spects to the Strug­gle icon.

The pres­i­dent also told the mourn­ers about the gov­ern­ing party’s Top Six first en­counter with Madik­izela-Man­dela’s daugh­ter, Ze­nani Man­dela-Dlamini, fol­low­ing the con­fir­ma­tion of their mother’s death at the Mil­park Hos­pi­tal in Joburg.

“The day af­ter she died, the ANC’s Top Six lead­ers went to her home to pay our con­do­lences to her fam­ily.

“Ze­nani’s tears re­vealed Mam’ Win­nie’s wounds,” Ramaphosa said.

Ac­cord­ing to him, Madik­izela-Man­dela was left to tend to her “wounds” on her own for the rest of her life.

“Left alone to fend for her­self only caused her more pain.

Ear­lier, ANC na­tional chair­per­son Gwede Man­tashe com­mit­ted the ANC to com­plet­ing the de­layed re­fur­bish­ing of Madik­izela-Man­dela’s home in Brand­fort in the Free State, to which the apartheid govern­ment ban­ished her for nearly a decade, between 1977 and 1986.

The ANC and in par­tic­u­lar its sec­re­tary-gen­eral, Ace Ma­gashule, have come un­der se­vere crit­i­cism fol­low­ing Madik­izela-Man­dela’s death for fail­ing to de­liver their prom­ise to con­vert the house into a mu­seum, de­spite mil­lions of rand hav­ing been bud­geted since the project was an­nounced years ago.

ANC na­tional ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee (NEC) mem­ber Malusi Gi­gaba ac­knowl­edged that there could be a jos­tle for the own­er­ship of Mama Win­nie’s legacy, but as­serted that the ANC did not have to do so.

“She was an ANC mem­ber right from the on­set to her fi­nal days. We wel­come the fact that the lead­er­ship of the ANC are em­braced by the rest of so­ci­ety, Gi­gaba told The Sun­day In­de­pen­dent.

Op­po­si­tion party lead­ers joined the cho­rus of peo­ple, who mourned Madik­izela-Man­dela’s death, as well as ex­alt­ing her legacy.

IFP leader Man­go­suthu Buthelezi spoke at her me­mo­rial ser­vice at Or­lando Sta­dium on Wed­nes­day, while DA leader de­liv­ered a mov­ing trib­ute on be­half of his party through a state­ment.

Yes­ter­day, Nomvula Mokonyane, fel­low ANC NEC mem­ber also con­tended that her party was not wor­ried about the ap­pro­pri­a­tion of Mama Win­nie’s legacy by other par­ties, in­clud­ing Malema.

“In fact, it is in Mama’s char­ac­ter that you will find this sort of in­te­gra­tion and par­tic­i­pa­tion of ev­ery­body. “Mama was em­braced by many, while others as­sume that she was hated by many .... They vil­i­fied her and thought they would de­feat Mama.”

‘RARELY can there have been some­one who was called to great­ness,” read one obit­u­ary I woke up to in Lon­don on April 3, “and yet failed that call­ing so de­ci­sively as Win­nie Madik­izela-Man­dela.”

Obit­u­ar­ies are filed by the me­dia and dusted off at a mo­ment’s no­tice in the event of sud­den re­quire­ments. This was co-writ­ten by a man who died in 2016. “In Har­lem, they call her ‘the Queen of Africa’, in South Africa ‘The Mother of the Na­tion’,” he wrote, “but she was nei­ther, her reputation mired in mur­der and fraud.”

I thought of the screen­ings I’ve pre­sented of the film Win­nie, in Har­lem and Lon­don and so many other towns and cities around the world, and the over­whelm­ingly pos­i­tive re­ac­tion to Win­nie’s story and then my thoughts re­turned to the smug, com­pla­cent con­dem­na­tion of her life’s work, so en­trenched in the world’s me­dia.

Was I go­ing to have to travel the world, en­gag­ing all who would come, look and lis­ten, while others wielded the pow­ers of a sim­ple, damn­ing obit­u­ary to de­fine Win­nie’s legacy?

To mark the sad and dig­ni­fied pass­ing of Mama Win­nie, the in­ter­na­tional me­dia treated us to ear­lier writ­ings, a palimpsest of the half-baked and the en­trenched, lay­ered with old fake news.

Rushed jour­nal­ists un­wit­tingly fed from the same pool of the oftre­peated and vin­tage ru­mour that echoed with the com­fort­ing ring of “com­mon knowl­edge”.

Ev­ery head­line sought some kind of safety in the ques­tion­able no­tion of “bal­ance”: let us credit her for the love she in­spired but re­mind our read­ers, our view­ers, that of course, this lady went bad. Worse still, had she not been a men­ace, stir­ring con­flict in a so­ci­ety un­der­go­ing a mirac­u­lous tran­si­tion un­der the stew­ard­ship of rather saintly men?

I wasn’t the only one af­fronted by these in­tran­si­gent, seem­ingly im­mutable nar­ra­tives, by this cyn­i­cal brand­ing ex­er­cise.

Had no one been lis­ten­ing to se­cu­rity agent Paul Eras­mus of the Strat­com unit, in his first dec­la­ra­tion to the TRC in 1997, when he ad­mit­ted “turn­ing out a mass of dis­in­for­ma­tion and neg­a­tive pro­pa­ganda” against her?

He ex­plained that Pres­i­dent Man­dela was the “ob­vi­ous tar­get” but that his im­pec­ca­ble in­tegrity made it dif­fi­cult. His wife, of course, was a dif­fer­ent mat­ter.

Eras­mus’s con­certed ef­forts re­lied on “ru­mours and the me­dia” to smear her with an un­end­ing stream of made-up sto­ries re­lat­ing to drink, drugs, ner­vous break­downs and keep­ing an open bed for nu­mer­ous and in­dis­crim­i­nate lovers.

I ex­pect that it was dif­fi­cult to hear those inklings of a deeper and darker re­al­ity at work in the heady days of rain­bows and mir­a­cles. And I won­der, as with all fairy tales, did the story need a Wicked Per­son to ex­punge all the vi­o­lence of the Strug­gle for free­dom?

His­tory is pock­marked with the treat­ment meted out to women who have gone against the grain: tra­di­tional heal­ers, naysay­ers and ac­tivists with minds of their own.

I found my­self lis­ten­ing a lot to Char­lie Min­gus’s bril­liant al­bum, The Black Saint and the Sinner

Lady, dur­ing the mak­ing of the film Win­nie. It chimed with what Zindzi Man­dela had said to me: “They tried to pitch my par­ents like the saint and The move­ment en­ti­tled of Love, Pain and Pas­sioned Re­volt, then Farewell my Beloved, till It's Free­dom Day seemed pre­scient in 1963, with Madiba in jail, han­dled over by the CIA and the strug­gle of teh Rivo­nia Trial en­gaged, with Robben Is­land still ahead. It was on the steps of the court house where Ac­cused Num­ber One, Nel­son Man­dela, and his com­rades had been con­demned for life, that in 1964 Win­nie first en­tered the global frame.

Her clear-headed, charis­matic, gen­tle-voiced re­but­tals to the loaded ques­tions by the BBC’s Robin Day were a tri­umph of pol­i­tics over emo­tion. She was so young and so bril­liant, a “fit­ting wife” for a great na­tion­al­ist leader.

Min­gus’s com­plex jazz brought me closer also to my late part­ner, Peter Maku­rube, who’d stirred things up in the be­gin­ning for me.

He took me to meet Zindzi and en­cour­aged us to talk to one an­other. “Make that film! Dig deep!” he in­sisted, “Con­tex­tu­alise.”

Peter was con­vinced that only a com­bi­na­tion of out­sider eyes and in­sider sym­pa­thy and the per­spec­tive of a woman’s ex­pe­ri­ence could cut through the hoary bough and dense bram­ble sur­round­ing a sleep­ing truth.

Many view­ers in South Africa will by now have seen or heard of the film we made with the sup­port of the Arts and Cul­ture De­part­ment and the Na­tional Film and Video Foun­da­tion, for which we are deeply thank­ful. Some will have been at the En­coun­ters pre­miere last year, which ended with a stand­ing ova­tion for Mama Win­nie.

Hav­ing watched the film for the first time, sur­rounded by a large au­di­ence in Johannesburg, she found her­self in a state of shock and awed re­lief, she told me.

She recog­nised her­self in a film for the first time, she said. She had an inkling of what her legacy might be­come. I met the for­mer di­rec­tor of Strat­com, Vic McPher­son, in his sun­lit gar­den. He sat po­litely telling me about things like psy­cho­log­i­cal war­fare and peo­ple be­ing hanged af­ter their trade unions and po­lit­i­cal or­gan­i­sa­tions had been in­fil­trated by his black agents – and I mar­velled in­wardly at what Han­nah Arendt had once called “the ba­nal­ity of evil”. And once our cam­era was packed safely away, in his en­thu­si­asm to share just how far out of the shad­ows my in­ter­ested at­ten­tion was en­cour­ag­ing him to step, he added a chill­ing rider: “I was the one who sent Ruth First the let­ter-bomb,” he said, with a chuckle. “Of course it was meant for her hus­band.”

All these wives, tar­geted in lieu of their hus­bands. All these wives, who had great po­lit­i­cal agency of their own and paid for it so dearly.

There is much work still to do. So much that didn’t fit into one fea­ture-length film, so much al­ready gath­ered that I had no space for – won­der­ful sto­ries by Hot­stix Mabuse, Pal Martins and others.

And a clearer ex­pla­na­tion of what drove Jerry Richard­son, a key in­for­mant of the Se­cu­rity Branch in the 1980s, to kill poor Stom­pie Sepei.

We are plan­ning more. What I hope the ex­ist­ing film shows is that South Africa, in that crit­i­cal time when the fu­ture was be­ing ne­go­ti­ated, would have ben­e­fited from the joint vi­sions of Win­nie and Nel­son Man­dela. “She was that wake-up fac­tor,” Zindzi says in the film. Her par­ents shared a com­mon goal with dif­fer­ent per­spec­tives.

They were a real power cou­ple: he a global icon and sage politi­cian, she with her ears and in­stincts, a lit­tle closer to the ground. But it was an idea that many feared at the time, the rad­i­cal idea that to­gether, in their party, the na­tion’s fate might be in safe hands.

And if there’s a mes­sage in the film it’s this: the no­tion and re­al­ity of “apartheid” was what was in ques­tion and at fault in those crit­i­cal years from 1985-1997 which I ex­plore in the film.

Apartheid. That sys­tem which en­gi­neered the sep­a­rat­ing and di­vid­ing and de­hu­man­i­sa­tion of peo­ple in the ex­er­cise of eco­nomic and po­lit­i­cal power.

And to ef­fec­tively op­pose the long-term, ne­far­i­ous con­se­quences of apartheid, to­geth­er­ness was what was needed. To­geth­er­ness, in the face of the messi­ness of tran­si­tion. Some of that messi­ness was good: the com­plex­ity and diver­sity of South Africa – and some of it was very dam­ag­ing: the racial, sex­ual and eco­nomic in­equal­i­ties that dis­fig­ure our world.

I hope that the joint legacy of Win­nie and Nel­son Man­dela will be a con­stant re­minder to all of the core prin­ci­ples of the Free­dom Char­ter of 1955, a pro­gres­sive char­ter for so­cial jus­tice and greater equal­ity, in a na­tion dam­aged by a long his­tory guided by a quite dif­fer­ent moral com­pass.


MOV­ING: Bri­tish su­per­model Naomi Camp­bell gave an emo­tional trib­ute to Strug­gle icon Win­nie Madik­izela-Man­dela at her funeral at the Or­lando Sta­dium in Soweto yes­ter­day.


RE­SPECT: A guard salutes the Mother of the Na­tion’s cof­fin on dis­play at the sta­dium.


BIRTH­DAY HUGS: Nel­son Man­dela, cen­tre, is flanked by his wife, Graça Machel, left, and his ex-wife, Win­nie Madik­izela-Man­dela, right, at his 86th birth­day party in Qunu in the East­ern Cape in 2004.


GRIEF: Win­nie’s daugh­ters, Ze­nani and Zindzi Man­dela, at their mother’s me­mo­rial ser­vice at Or­lando Sta­dium.


2016 CEL­E­BRA­TION: Be­fore her 80th birth­day con­cert, laid on by Cai­phus Se­menya and Letta Mbuli, Win­nie saluted the ANC and EFF.

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