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Posted: March 11th, 2010 | By Ray Hartley

In light of the vicious tongue-lashing Winning Madikizela-Mandela gave Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu in the Evening Standard, The Times decided to publish the (edited for lenght) text of a speech she gave in February. It was light, warm and touching. Read on …

Speech at Wits University to mark 20 years since Mandela’s release in February this year

The day the treason trial ended in 1961, Nelson Mandela came home with the ANC national executive committee members and said he would be back after a week. That week was to last for 27 years.

He was loving, fond of children, a people’s person and a very hard worker. His fearlessness, his unassailable morality, his unwavering commitment to the struggle for total freedom and his insistence on marching to his own beat were the hallmarks of his character.

Yet he also had the ability to take on adversaries and win them over, and to take complex issues and bring them down to earth.

And he was no angel, like most human beings. He never claimed to be a saint.

It was after he was transferred from Robben Island to Pollsmoor that I started noticing that he did not look well. Though we had a contact visit, all he was able to tell me was that he was fortunately with Comrade [Ahmed] Karthrada in his cell; at least he had company.

But he soon started coughing badly. He told me that his cell was damp and that on rainy days it was flooded with about 2inches of water. I phoned Helen Suzman who came to visit me in Brandfort. She was the only voice to raise the alarm for me in the apartheid Parliament.

That was when he contracted tuberculosis and underwent a massive operation; his left lung was completely submerged in fluid. Both Zenani and Zindzi [daughters] were with me at his side when he was wheeled into the operating theatre.

That trip to Cape Town was significant. It marked the turning point of South Africa’s political landscape: I met justice minister Kobie Coetsee on the plane to Cape Town.

I was meeting him for the second time. I was once at the Durban Airport with my friend, Professor Fatima Meer, when she pointed to a short white man taking his luggage from the boot of his car. She said that is the apartheid minister of justice.

I went over to him and asked him when would he release our loved ones from prison. His stern response was: “When you stop your terrorist activities, Mrs Mandela. We know all about your underground terrorism; they must blame you, not us. We long ago told him to renounce violence and he won’t! We know you influenced him not to!”

On our second meeting, on the plane, Coetsee asked me to sit next to him. We continued our discussion of the Durban Airport. He was very polite on that occasion. He asked me what I thought the National Party should do as the country was sliding into completely uncontrolled violence.

My response was: “But you know that: you have to open a dialogue between our leaders and yourselves.”

Then he said: “But, you know, you do not have leaders.”

I said that was true, because “you are holding them in the Pietermaritzburg treason trial and in Pollsmor Prison”.

I warned him that he dare not insult us with his homeland puppets because the masses would revolt and I would lead them.

On our second day in Cape Town, four large security branch men came to our hotel with a message from Coetsee.

He ordered me to visit him in his residence. I was terrified that my people would see me in the security branch car and I would be labelled an informer. I used our secret line and phoned Comrade OR Tambo in Lusaka. He said I should go to see him.

Coetsee was by himself and I sat in the middle of the lounge. He moved me to “a more comfortable position”. I knew he was recording me – but I was also strapped and recording him!

Again I repeated that it was the same leadership, including the Lusaka leadership, with whom he needed to consult.

He asked me to persuade Tata Madiba to give them a chance and that he would report our discussion to their Cabinet, but to [president] PW Botha first.

Through our underground communication channels, I conveyed this to Comrade Tambo and sent him the tape of my recording of Kobie Coetsee.

On many occasions thereafter I would go to Pollsmoor and have to wait for hours – Tata would be out for secret talks with Coetsee. And that is how the talks began between the National Party government and the ANC in Lusaka.

On all occasions, I conveyed further discussions to Tambo. That is why Madiba was released a year later after all the others: he was literally overseeing the release of all the others.

That Sunday afternoon in 1990 [when Mandela came out of prison], when he emerged he was still every bit the man I described earlier, but something had changed: the world had begun to recognise these qualities. He was now a legend and becoming an icon of tolerance and humanity, a symbol of freedom who was soon to prove that he is the greatest statesman that Africa, and indeed the world, has produced in this era.

Before this could happen, though, he had to lead a process to negotiate the transfer of political power in this country, to convince our militant organisation and its enemies that freedom could be achieved and apartheid toppled without resorting to further bloodshed or descending into a civil war.

This was not easy, but peace has been achieved and political democracy is firmly entrenched. We salute him and the entire leadership that gave up their lives for us to be free.

Democracy has been achieved – if you limit its description to political democracy. So has freedom and peace.

We have a non-racial, multi-party democracy, an independent judiciary and one of the best constitutions in the world.

But we need to ask whether the social transformation that would allow for all members of our societies to benefit from this has really happened. Do we have equal opportunity? Do the poor enjoy this democracy, freedom and harmony in equal measure to the rich?

You cannot talk about equal opportunity without defining the areas of opportunity. Is there equality in access to food, shelter, electricity, water, education, wealth and enterprise? Can we all afford the same healthcare?

Do we have similar access to culture and leisure? What of safety and security, and so many other opportunities that define our equality of life? Are rural areas equal to cities? Does a black child have the same access to opportunities as a white child? Are black and white really equal? Not yet!

Is the Budget democratic?

I raise these issues because they are our reality – not as a “narrow populist”. A populist is someone who attempts to exploit the condition of his fellow citizens, who are not as fortunate or intelligent, in order to hold on to power and privilege. I seek neither power nor privilege.

Since 1964, when Madiba spoke his famous words, the struggle for me has been about democracy, freedom, harmony and equal opportunity.

Nelson Mandela and his institutions have focused on addressing many of the shortcomings I raised above in a way only someone of his immense stature could do. Much of what they do, however, cannot be done by any government alone.

Madiba has mastered the best local and global resources to assist in this effort. This is a lasting tribute to his legacy.

But it would be a mistake to consider only one part of Nelson Mandela as his legacy – his philanthropy. Yes, he is a symbol of reconciliation and peace. But he is also a potent symbol of struggle over oppression. He has become an inspiration to all people who suffer oppression. And he has demonstrated that one can wage a just war to achieve freedom.





March 11, 2010 at 12:14 pm

The question is: is this the same speech she has been lashed for ?


Reggie Radebe

March 11, 2010 at 12:35 pm

Why know she indulge in this vulgarities to Mandela? Is not that the ANC before the formation of Truth and Reconciliation commission did consult top brass in the organization including her? If she did oppose to such formation let her show us the proof in record so that we can move along with her new found fame in the international media. If that is the case I have contention that out of all people Winnie Mandela has a nerve to speak out the injustices by using Madiba.Yes, there are some issues we are not content with during Mandela era and even unpopular decisions were taken but why know after so long? I think is part of populism drive which has become part of ANC norms. Above all ANC has no leadership in Zuma.We are as good as having no president. It seems everyone do as he pleases. Let alone the breaking news of drink and driving of Jackson Mthembu ANC spin doctor. Where is this country heading under the ANC rule? ANC is being plagued by one scandal after another forgets the issues of national importance other than them.

As for Winnie must shut up and speak the truth about Stompie,lolo Sono and Katiza Cebekhulu.



December 15, 2013 at 8:32 pm

All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone! The end of an era, maybe the beginning of a new. Mandela’s spirit will live on if we don’t forget the context of life and death outside the Soccer City stadium. Nelson Mandela marked the end of the Cold War as much as Gorbachev who opened up the Soviet Union that had been encircled entirely by the US’ nuclear weapons. The US has claimed the honour of this ‘victory’ (of capitalism over communism) and continued its policy in strategic wars facilitated by complacent western media keeping us uninformed about the true background. The Brandt Report helped to see the connection between the East-West and North-South divide that were to end by the events initiated by these men under the guidance of the Christ. Maitreya the world teacher when he had just entered the Western world in 1977 inspired former German Chancellor Willy Brandt to establish the Brandt Commission on his socioeconomic views. Maitreya, incognito, has given a number of interviews in Russia only last year.

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