en-fr  Obituary: Winnie Mandela - A dangerous woman
Obituary: Winnie Mandela - A dangerous woman" The Economist, April 7, 2018.

Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, anti-apartheid activist turned Soweto mafia matriarch, died on April 2nd, aged 81.

FROM the very start Winnie Mandela knew this partnership would be bizarre. Their courtship, when Nelson would arrive in gym attire and drive her to the hall just to watch him sweat. His sudden so-confident proposal, after a picnic on a white farm, when he said he knew a good seamstress to make her wedding dress. (He was married already, but he would see to that.) His constant dashing off to political meetings, so that life with him was clearly going to be life without him. The secret meetings, he in heavy disguise, in the years of his treason trial. Dazzled by his glamour and also crazy about him, she felt in real danger of losing her identity and fizzling into an appendage. She vowed that was never going to happen to her.

Then from 1964, only six years into their marriage, he disappeared into prison for almost three decades, mostly on Robben Island. She could visit him once every six months, but not touch. There were letters, yet no simple memories of sitting round a table together, eating a meal with their daughters. Since she never really lived with him, she wondered later whether she had had enough time to love him. But when he left the scene she was more than ready to take on the fight against apartheid in his place. The harder they tried to silence him, the louder she would shout.

That came naturally. No men, especially Afrikaners, were going to subjugate her. Growing up in Pondoland she had run barefoot with the boys, played stick-fights, set animal traps. She had been head girl at her school, then the first qualified black medical social worker at Baragwanath Hospital in Soweto. Tall, regal, exuding elegance, she was bound to catch Nelson’s eye. And she looked as fierce and fine in combat fatigues and leather jackets, marching with the Defiance Campaign to end white rule. She was harassed, put under house arrest, tortured until she swelled up and passed blood. Sent into internal exile to Brandfort in 1977, she made the place a shrine to the cause. The white colonels found there was no pain she couldn’t bear and nothing, nothing, she feared.

Matches and necklaces.

Her ideas of liberation raged on even when Nelson’s changed. She did not speak, or associate, or deal, or do deals, with whites. In the townships, among her people, she praised bloodshed and preached violence. Poor blacks might have no guns but they had stones, matches, and old tyres to fill with petrol, jam over a collaborator’s head and set alight, necklaces of fire. In the 1980s she held sway in Soweto with the help of the Mandela United Football Club, “Winnie’s boys”, who hung around her house to carry out kidnappings and beatings. In 1989 they went too far, kicking 14-year-old Stompie Moeketsi around like a football and cutting his throat with shears, then shooting dead the doctor who examined him. The courts eventually found her “negligent”. She was barely sorry; as a rule, never sorry. For God’s sake, was it her responsibility to control their every move?

By the next year, with Nelson at last out of jail, she became more careful. She was only part of the collective, the struggle; but she had to take her place in the ruling circle of the African National Congress once, in 1994, Nelson was president. From then on her reaction to bad raps, dozens of counts of fraud and theft as well as the killings, was to raise a defiant fist, then to wait as the ANC retreated from her, then to appeal. She always won milder sentences, for the courts and the party feared to cross her and she could loudly proclaim how the people loved her, even though her marriage to their hero had foundered and in 1996 they divorced. Back she would sail to the ANC’s executive council and its Women’s League, resplendent in her tribal jewellery and brilliant satins, the mother of the nation, especially the poor. For yes, she had stayed in Soweto rather than move to a once-white suburb—even if her house was a multimillion fortified affair with six bedrooms, in one of which she would spend careful hours perfecting her morning toilette.

The new South Africa disappointed her. Compromise and forgiveness, Nelson’s way, had let too many whites off the hook for apartheid and left the economy in their hands. Meanwhile, she couldn’t bear the factionalism and disrespect shown in Parliament and within the ANC. The fact that she herself was expelled from the government in 1995 for disobeying Nelson’s orders and sowing division was neither here nor there. She could do as she pleased where he was concerned. Confident as she always was that “her people” would support her, she hustled for higher office—deputy president had a good ring to it—and lectured the callow new ANC men, Thabo Mbeki and Jacob Zuma, on how to behave. Strong, charismatic, unifying leaders appeared to be nowhere in sight.

Yet she was there, and still bore the name Mandela. Often enough she had tried to keep her distance from it. The role of ornamental First Lady of South Africa held no interest for her. She was not Mandela’s product, his meek woman. When he was in prison, even when he was out of it, she had plenty of affairs with younger men. But after their divorce she had not dropped the name, that name that kept her in everyone’s eye, and all the more so as Nelson aged and faded into silence. Silence and fading were not things he could ever have expected from her.
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(He was married already, but he would see to that.)
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She vowed that was never going to happen to her.
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She could visit him once every six months, but not touch.
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The harder they tried to silence him, the louder she would shout.
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That came naturally.
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No men, especially Afrikaners, were going to subjugate her.
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Tall, regal, exuding elegance, she was bound to catch Nelson’s eye.
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Matches and necklaces.
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Her ideas of liberation raged on even when Nelson’s changed.
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She did not speak, or associate, or deal, or do deals, with whites.
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The courts eventually found her “negligent”.
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She was barely sorry; as a rule, never sorry.
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For God’s sake, was it her responsibility to control their every move?
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The new South Africa disappointed her.
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She could do as she pleased where he was concerned.
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Strong, charismatic, unifying leaders appeared to be nowhere in sight.
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Yet she was there, and still bore the name Mandela.
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Often enough she had tried to keep her distance from it.
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She was not Mandela’s product, his meek woman.
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Silence and fading were not things he could ever have expected from her.
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Obituary: Winnie Mandela - A dangerous woman"

The Economist, April 7, 2018.

Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, anti-apartheid activist turned Soweto mafia matriarch, died on April 2nd, aged 81.

FROM the very start Winnie Mandela knew this partnership would be bizarre. Their courtship, when Nelson would arrive in gym attire and drive her to the hall just to watch him sweat. His sudden so-confident proposal, after a picnic on a white farm, when he said he knew a good seamstress to make her wedding dress. (He was married already, but he would see to that.) His constant dashing off to political meetings, so that life with him was clearly going to be life without him. The secret meetings, he in heavy disguise, in the years of his treason trial. Dazzled by his glamour and also crazy about him, she felt in real danger of losing her identity and fizzling into an appendage. She vowed that was never going to happen to her.

Then from 1964, only six years into their marriage, he disappeared into prison for almost three decades, mostly on Robben Island. She could visit him once every six months, but not touch. There were letters, yet no simple memories of sitting round a table together, eating a meal with their daughters. Since she never really lived with him, she wondered later whether she had had enough time to love him. But when he left the scene she was more than ready to take on the fight against apartheid in his place. The harder they tried to silence him, the louder she would shout.

That came naturally. No men, especially Afrikaners, were going to subjugate her. Growing up in Pondoland she had run barefoot with the boys, played stick-fights, set animal traps. She had been head girl at her school, then the first qualified black medical social worker at Baragwanath Hospital in Soweto. Tall, regal, exuding elegance, she was bound to catch Nelson’s eye. And she looked as fierce and fine in combat fatigues and leather jackets, marching with the Defiance Campaign to end white rule. She was harassed, put under house arrest, tortured until she swelled up and passed blood. Sent into internal exile to Brandfort in 1977, she made the place a shrine to the cause. The white colonels found there was no pain she couldn’t bear and nothing, nothing, she feared.

Matches and necklaces.

Her ideas of liberation raged on even when Nelson’s changed. She did not speak, or associate, or deal, or do deals, with whites. In the townships, among her people, she praised bloodshed and preached violence. Poor blacks might have no guns but they had stones, matches, and old tyres to fill with petrol, jam over a collaborator’s head and set alight, necklaces of fire. In the 1980s she held sway in Soweto with the help of the Mandela United Football Club, “Winnie’s boys”, who hung around her house to carry out kidnappings and beatings. In 1989 they went too far, kicking 14-year-old Stompie Moeketsi around like a football and cutting his throat with shears, then shooting dead the doctor who examined him. The courts eventually found her “negligent”. She was barely sorry; as a rule, never sorry. For God’s sake, was it her responsibility to control their every move?

By the next year, with Nelson at last out of jail, she became more careful. She was only part of the collective, the struggle; but she had to take her place in the ruling circle of the African National Congress once, in 1994, Nelson was president. From then on her reaction to bad raps, dozens of counts of fraud and theft as well as the killings, was to raise a defiant fist, then to wait as the ANC retreated from her, then to appeal. She always won milder sentences, for the courts and the party feared to cross her and she could loudly proclaim how the people loved her, even though her marriage to their hero had foundered and in 1996 they divorced. Back she would sail to the ANC’s executive council and its Women’s League, resplendent in her tribal jewellery and brilliant satins, the mother of the nation, especially the poor. For yes, she had stayed in Soweto rather than move to a once-white suburb—even if her house was a multimillion fortified affair with six bedrooms, in one of which she would spend careful hours perfecting her morning toilette.

The new South Africa disappointed her. Compromise and forgiveness, Nelson’s way, had let too many whites off the hook for apartheid and left the economy in their hands. Meanwhile, she couldn’t bear the factionalism and disrespect shown in Parliament and within the ANC. The fact that she herself was expelled from the government in 1995 for disobeying Nelson’s orders and sowing division was neither here nor there. She could do as she pleased where he was concerned. Confident as she always was that “her people” would support her, she hustled for higher office—deputy president had a good ring to it—and lectured the callow new ANC men, Thabo Mbeki and Jacob Zuma, on how to behave. Strong, charismatic, unifying leaders appeared to be nowhere in sight.

Yet she was there, and still bore the name Mandela. Often enough she had tried to keep her distance from it. The role of ornamental First Lady of South Africa held no interest for her. She was not Mandela’s product, his meek woman. When he was in prison, even when he was out of it, she had plenty of affairs with younger men. But after their divorce she had not dropped the name, that name that kept her in everyone’s eye, and all the more so as Nelson aged and faded into silence. Silence and fading were not things he could ever have expected from her.