JOHANNESBURG – The death and memorial services of the Mother of the Nation has revealed much. As is with many funerals of mothers, things are unveiled and revealed that were for some unknown, kept secret, hidden and under wraps. On another level, times of mourning forces friends and foes to engage one another because the sorrow of the moment is bigger than the anger we may have for each other. If anyone hitherto has doubted the status of Mother of the Nation accredited to Winnie Nomzamo Madikizela Mandela, they know by now they were always wrong.
Obviously, whenever you raise the name of Winnie Mandela at any time you will find diverse views, such is the nature of most leaders that had major impact throughout history. They are usually either worshipped by some in deity sense or castigated by others as villains. We all know Winnie Mandela will never invoke a uniformity and to expect that is not to appreciate who Madikizela-Mandela is in her own right.
It was indeed a week of revelations, we heard how apartheid’s machinery supported by embedded journalists did the filthy propaganda work of the covert strategic communications arm STRATCOM. STRATCOM and its units meticulously engineered a plan to defame, destroy and ultimately bastardize Madikizela-Mandela in frames of a Stompie Sepei murderer and terrorist claims for which she was blamed, accused vilified for the better part of the last 29 years.
Turning her into a monster, was the aim, it worked for the apartheid regime who feared this woman more than any other ANC leader ever. The Apartheid regime and its intelligence had long concluded what real danger this individual spells for them. Therefore, they had to subject her to a year-long solitary confinement of imprisonment. They had to banish her to a Brandfort where she would be disconnected from her normal life and influence. The regimes of Diedericks, Vorster, Botha and De Klerk knew the power of this woman. If her power was known by the apartheid regime it was equally sensed if not miscalculated by the ANC and its aligned formations.
However, if the discrediting of Madikizela Mandela worked for the apartheid regime, it equally worked for the political ambitions, political agendas of some in the ANC who saw in her a threat for them ascending and maintaining political control and power in the ANC as an organisation. It was important for the agendas of opposing groups both the apartheid regime and some in the ANC to have Winnie carry the can for the death of Seipei, shackled with this atrocity as a murderer, when they knew the truth but equally remained silent on it. This week we heard of the Pascale Lamsche interview, that revealed the late Seipei was killed in an agreed price of R30000.00 to be paid by the apartheid system.
We know that Winnie Mandela was investigated by the Mandela Crisis Committee formed in 1988 a team that featured prominent names. The final conclusion on their investigations read as follow: “…We are outraged at Mrs Mandela’s complicity in the recent abductions and assault on Stompie. The Mass Democratic Movement hereby distances itself from Mrs Mandela and her actions”.
A closer look at who made up the Mandela Crisis Committee members shows how the clergy played a role in perpetuating the lie of Madikizela-Mandela being responsible for the death of Seipei. Some of them investigated her in the MCC and tried her in the TRC. It is more than fair to say Madikizela-Mandela was discredited by the apartheid system, aided by the betrayal of a group including the clergy and tried before a farcical TRC that served a political agenda of isolating her for a cross-section of the political liberation struggle divide.
Madikizela-Mandela in her death has brought together opposing political parties to commemorate and celebrate her life. We saw many who rejected her from that Seipei frame when they were in political power now all of the sudden seeking to gain mileage from her death in settling political scores with those they have determined enemies. The St. Georges Cathedral memorial saw a Trevor Manuel using the occasion of Madikizela- Mandela’s death to take his personal aim at the secretary general of the ANC, Ace Magashule. I asked again where and when in democracy did Manuel while government minister ever publicly condemned the white-owned media for vilifying Madikizela Mandela that he today can attempt to point a finger at the media.
We heard confessions from Paul Erasmus who was tasked as the central role player in a campaign to delegitimize in discredit Winnie Mandela. We heard of this extensive plan to discredit her, a plan that extended beyond the shores of SA to have included the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom John Majors and other conservatives who had no love lost for Madikizela Mandela or the ANC. Clearly, Madikizela Mandela was not an ordinary freedom fighter but unique for the attention she was given by those who at the centre of the plan to discredit her.
South Africa learnt that Winnie Mandela was the only person from the ANC to appear before the TRC where, we all know Archbishop Tutu as the Chairperson begged her to admit she was responsible for Seipei’s death, with words of ‘things went wrong’. This singular event renders the entire TRC process farcical as many of us long have claimed. The TRC, remains a moment in South African history, where truth was sacrificed at the altar of an expeditious reconciliation, the TRC is eternalised as a process in which a church leader (Archbishop Desmond M. Tutu) became the centrepiece of a process that failed the masses and victims of South Africa, yet served the purposes of a political agenda with benefits for a cross-section of the political elite on both sides of our liberation struggle divide.
South Africans learnt that this act of isolating Winnie Mandela, at ANC organisational level worked to deal with the radical and populists as some have branded the likes of Madikizela-Mandela, Hani, Gwala and others. It was clear the apartheid regime needed a toned-down ANC defined in moderates of so-called reasonable minds. If the deal to have a negotiated settlement was going to work it would simply never work with the ‘populists’. We learnt how apartheid’s head of National Intelligence Lukas Daniel ‘Niel’ Barnard in his own words coached Nelson Mandela on his first address after his release in Cape Town, and how Mandela defied his advice, and how Barnard feared the worst after that.
On another level, Madikizela-Mandela’s death and her memorials brought together opposing political parties that in a sense appeared cajoling each another. The EFF staged their own memorial in a very strategic place Brandfort, the place to which Madikizela Mandela was banished for 7 years in the late seventies. With this the EFF stole the thunder of the ANC, it also rubbed salt into the wounds of the DA when it consciously chose to invite Cape Town Mayor Patricia De Lille to its event as one of the guest speakers.
Clearly, Madikizela-Mandela was bigger than any political party, she belonged in membership to the ANC but she cannot be confined to a party, group or interest section. The celebrations from many of SA parties confirm that she is the Mother of the Nation. Yet her death and subsequent mourning appear to be shaping the political space and environment we can only anticipate what this will mean come 2019.
This very week we heard many refer to her as Mamma Winnie and accord her the status of Mother of the Nation, these words were flowing from the lips of people who usually did not extend this designation to her. It appears in death some finally began to see her for who she is, in claims of the Mother of the Nation.
The Pascale Lamsche interview aired on eNCA has on its own been very revealing, it revealed a Winnie that to her death was a victim of both apartheid and some in the ANC conniving to her detriment. It also revealed a deep sense of betrayal and disrespect for the work Madikizela-Mandela has done as a unique contribution in a history of South African liberation struggle. There is now little doubt that if Nelson Mandela in any sense became a household name of fame it could not have happened without the direct role Madikizela-Mandela played in his absence. Many eyes finally opened to the idea that all along perhaps the wrong Mandela was praised, hero-worshipped. What is evident is that Winnie Mandela spelt a threat to more than the apartheid regime. Her defiance did not sit well with more than those who butchered the masses during the dark days of apartheid tyranny. It extended to those who were in the ANC.
South Africans ask themselves today why the ANC knowing of the apartheid led campaign of discrediting, and delegitimizing Winnie Mandela proved silent, played along and allowed her to hang when she was the one that singularly kept the ANC alive in South Africa?
Supporters and voters of the ANC want to know why the facts around who killed Seipei and the reasons for the latter’s death as an apartheid engineered act for which Madikizela-Mandela was blamed, was never challenged or exposed for what it is, by those in the ANC who knew. Supporters of the ANC wants to know why the minister of Police then Sidney Mufamadi in 1995, facilitated by Police Commissioner George Fivaz, asked the head of the Murder and Robbery Squad Henk Heslinga to restart the investigations into all cases on Winnie Mandela from Seipei, to get evidence that she may be tried for murder.
Clearly, this was a political move, may we know who stood to benefit from this? Did SA President Nelson Mandela know of this request by his Police Minister, did Thabo Mbeki the deputy know of this and to what extent was he informed of this, who exactly gave Mufamadi instructions to restart the case of murder against Madikizela Mandela?
Many have today a different picture of the woman that was demonised as ill-disciplined as a populist in ANC ranks and a terrorist in apartheid regime mind. The death and mourning extend the hope that we may one day soon know who all were involved with the death of the late Chris Hani.
South Africa now knows what many of us always knew it was Winnie Mandela who in life as one person extended the ANC and Mandela life and a relevance. Is it possible that she in her death with the truth finally emerging stands to equally politically annihilate both the ANC and the Mandela iconic image? What will her death’s true impact be on respect for the ANC leadership since they were silent on this gross injustice?