A lot has been said about Mrs Winnie Madikizela-Mandela's views about her former husband and comrade's causal actions in the negotiations. I will thus start this article by declaring boldly that Mandela plus other leaders at the time let Black people down with all the compromises that the ANC eventually entered into or by succumbing to undue pressure which was exerted on him whilst he was on Robben Island and later Victor Verster prisons.
The late Mr Reginald Oliver Tambo had warned against holding negotiations in South Africa and had actually preferred a neutral territory e.g. Zimbabwe. It was as if OR (as Tambo was affectionately known in exile and locally) knew that the apartheid government would employ university professors of psychology, trained National Intelligence Services agents/operatives and many others experts as negotiators who would later use clandestine tactics in order to weaken and break-down the resolute Mandela's psych.
In the end, that is exactly what happened and Mandela was tricked into taking a soft approach towards his incarcerators. Instead of heeding OR's advice, Mandela conducted the preliminary negotiations in Robben Island and this so peeved the late Govan Mbeki that at one stage they were not in speaking terms. Dr Mandela did of course write a letter to OR informing him about these developments whilst he was in prison. The existence of these negotiations has been confirmed by three independent people namely Ahmed Kathrada, Professor Vladimir Shubin and Mr Riaan Labuschagne although the former two gentlemen may not share my sentiments on his letting the struggle down.
It is public knowledge that Mr Kathrada was in prison for many years with Mandela and he recently took former president Thabo Mbeki to task for ignoring Mandela's role in negotiations whilst in prison. He penned a hard hitting article which appeared in the Sunday Independent newspaper wherein he refuted Mbeki's claim to having been the one who started the negotiations. Although this latter point is debatable but that is a subject for another day, suffice to say that in Mbeki's case he started negotiations with the Afrikaners as far back as 1986, without even OR's knowledge. Mandela met former president Piet Botha on 5 July 1989 in which meeting the latter asked him to distance himself from the SACP and renounce the armed struggle.
In his response wrote thus, "we consider the armed struggle a legitimate form of self defence against a morally repugnant system of government which would not allow even peaceful forms of protest. It is more than ironical that it should be (the apartheid) government which demands that we renounce violence. The government knows only too well that there is not a single political organisation in this country inside or outside parliament which can ever compare with the ANC in its total commitment to peaceful change".
I have previously quoted Dr Mandela's response after that meeting in relation to the SACP therefore I will not go into that subject for now. Mr Labuschagne is a former NIS operative who worked with Dr Niel Barnard (then a Director-General of the NIS) who was incidentally present at the ANC's Kabwe Conference in 1985. He had infiltrated the ANC, purporting to be a journalist and has since written a book about his sojourn entitled "On South African Secret Service". He has documentary proof of his engagement with the NIS including photographs to back up his claims.
Professor Shupin spent 30 years assisting the ANC and during that time he had intimate dealings with senior leaders of the ANC and in the Communist Party of the then USSR, therefore this settles the argument on whether or not any negotiations took place between Mandela and the apartheid system. What is perhaps up for debate is whether or not he let us down and some people in an effort to protect Dr Mandela's legacy may want to brush this fact under the carpet.
Those who are as brutally honest as I am however (the likes of Winnie) would agree that Mandela did in fact let us down. I am thus not at all surprised that this struggle stalwart and former mother of the nation, Mrs Winnie Madikizela-Mandela expressed similar sentiments. This is after all Mandela's former wife therefore she knows him better than all of us. Instead of people condemning her, they should be asking - what do you mean Mrs Madikizela-Mandela? Sadly, the blood, sweat, sacrifice and death of our former guerillas plus local cadres hasn't paid off in terms of economic emancipation. We have instead ended up with the status quo prevailing with the minority controlling all the means of production.
This amongst other things is what has led to Julius Malema being attacked for calling for nationalisation of key industries including mines. The indigenous people's rights to land, mineral resources and everything else that was stolen from our forefathers back in 1652 when Jan Van Reebieck first sailed into our shores were trampled upon in the process. When the founding father of the ANC, one Themba Pixley kaIsaka Seme pooled all tribes together in 1912 under the slogan "MSotho, MZulu, MXhosa hlanganani" he had the complete economic emancipation of Black people in mind.
He certainly did not intend for the half hearted compromise that was achieved in Kempton Park. Under the stewardship of Chief Albert Luthuli, the ANC led a campaign called the Congress of the People through which the Freedom Charter was written in 1955.
I will go on to say that had Mandela not been captured, he too would probably still have held strong views against his oppressors. We should not allow Mandela's commercialisation success and elevation to international icon status to cloud the truth that, "he negotiated a poor deal for Black people", to put it in Winnie's words. As a people, African in particular we deserved better but little if any was achieved to economically benefit future generations. The BEE moguls, Black middle and tenderpreneurs should not be used as a measure of the economic upliftment of Black people because they are a minority.
It has thus caught me by surprise that instead of Winnie's views being applauded, she has instead been vilified and called all sorts of names by Patrick Laurence (see article). I actually read with interest that article by Mr. Laurence who now thinks that Winnie's views may become a precursor to the dearth of her political career. Mrs. Madikela-Mandela has been written off on numerous occasions by her detractors and oppressors but in all that time she always managed to bounce back.
I believe that their divorce, notwithstanding Mrs. Madikizela-Mandela's indiscretions, may have been engineered by the state and those who colluded with it within the ANC so that her hard-line stance would not influence Mandela. So much consternation has been caused amongst some sections of our society, that they now call her all sorts of names. This is the same society which today believes that if and when Mandela dies Black people will terrorise them.
Winnie's condemnation by those who are ignorant of the truth (or simply those who want to rewrite history - journalists, of the likes of Laurence) is meaningless though. Mrs Madikizela-Mandela spent almost her whole life fighting against oppression and the injustices against our people. In that time she spent almost 30 years married to former president Nelson Mandela therefore she can speak with authority in any subject that relates to her former husband.
It thus surprises me when journalists and leaders want to second guess Mrs Madikizela-Mandela's views when they have neither stayed with him nor were they ever married to him for decades. When I attended the lecture that she delivered at Wits University last month on the 20th anniversary of Dr Nelson Mandela's release from prison she spoke passionately about their time together. If I have to make a choice between taking views (any views at all) between those expressed by Mrs. Madikizela-Mandela and the doubting Thomases who condemn her on the subject Mandela, I would go with Winnie Madikizela-Mandela's as the voice of authority.
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