Biography Of Winnie Mandela

Biography of Winnie Mandela. The woman who is the ex-wife of Nelson Mandela, and head of the ANC Women's League in South Africa. This highly controversial lady is her own worst enemy.

Winnie Mandela - those who love her call her Mother of the Nation (South Africa) and those who hate who say she should be jailed for life. There are few, if any, people who don't experience intense feelings one way or another when her name is mentioned.

She is a highly controversial figure and makes enemies as easily as others pick up shells on a beach. Yet, she is charismatic and is able to captivate an audience with the intensity of her gaze and speech. Winnie Mandela is the type of woman who commands attention when she walks into a room full of people. She is a beautiful looking woman and is proud to dress up in designer African clothes - even if you wanted to, you just cannot ignore this lady. When interviewed, she is grace personified and comes across as a warm and intelligent woman.

Just who is Winnie Mandela? The best way to answer this, is to have a look at her past and one will soon see why she became what she is today - someone that people have passionate feelings about.She was born on 26 September 1936 in Bizana, Transkei - now known as part of the Eastern Cape of South Africa. She was one of eight siblings and her mother, Nomathamsanqa Mzaidume taught Home Economics (Domestic Scienc) at a local school. Winnie experienced her first loss at the tender age of eight when her mother died. Her father worked in the Forestry and Agriculture department of the Transkei government. Transkei is now incorporated as part of the Eastern Cape in South Africa.

Winnie attended primary school in Bizna and completed her school career in Shawbury. She received a diploma in social work at the Jan Hofmeyer School in Johannesburg, Gauteng. Winnie had drive and ambition even in those early years - remember this was during the apartheid years and during a time when women were still oppressed in South Africa: she was both black AND female. Yet she managed to complete a Bachelor of Arts degree, majoring in International Relations, at one of the leading universities in South Africa, The University of Witwatersrand, in Johannesburg.

Her family were better off than most black people in South Africa in those years and during this time she was unaware of the inequality that was so rampant among black people. It was only when she worked at the Baragwanath Hospital as a social worker (she was the very first black social worker, male or female) that she became acutely aware of the huge gap between the privileged white minority and the terrible levels of poverty that the black people were subjected to. She noticed how bad the medical services were for ill black people and even completed a project that included research that showed than ten out one thousand black babies died during birth. Deaths that need not have happened.

During this time, she met young people from the African National Congress and her political voice was first heard in the nineteen-fifties and she was arrested and detained as a political prisoner for the first time in 1958. This did not deter her and she was heavily involved with encouraging the women of South Africa to stand up and refuse to be subjected to the laws of apartheid.



She met a young lawyer, Nelson Mandela during her early political years; they married and during the years gave birth to children. Even in the early years of their marriage, she had to learn to survive on her own , as Mandela toured different townships, passing on the anti-apartheid message. After his arrest and imprisonment in 1962, she was banned - this meant that she became a prisoner within Soweto, the largest township in South Africa. In typical Winnie style, she ignored the ban and visited her husband, Nelson, in prison in Cape Town in 1967. Her reward for this was one month's jail.

Over the years she was banned and jailed. At one time she was put into solitary confinement on the death row, probably , the then government's endeavour to weaken her beliefs. One wonders how the children coped with an absent father and a mother who was victimised in this way. After her release form a Kroonstad prison in 1975, she was part of the newly formed African National Congress Women's League - a movement that till today has a powerful political voice. It was not long before the Women's League was banned as well - this did not deter Winnie and her female comrades - they continued to struggle against the apartheid laws.

Winnie was involved with the Soweto 1976 uprising and was sentenced to jail again - this time, she had to spend half a year in prison and after her release she was not allowed to go back to Soweto. Once again, her homelife was tilted upside down. The South African government re-stationed her in the town of Brandfort and there she remained for nine years, enduring assaults on her house and received numerous death threats. Being the strong woman that she was, she again ignored her banning order and left Brandfort for visits to Soweto - for this she was arrested each time and had to spend time in jail.

Is this what made her controversial? Not at all - there were many other black people who endured the same victimisation. After all, it was her tenacity and loyalty that earned her the title "mother of the nation". She was respected worldwide and among the majority of black people. What put Winnie in a class of her own, besides being married to an icon and hero to millions of people worldwide, was her fearless verbal attack on the apartheid government. They responded in kind with arrests, banning orders and jail terms, but they were never able to destroy her or weaken her belief.

Ultimately, it was Winnie who almost destroyed herself. She formed what was known as The Mandela United Football Team. They spent more time protecting Mrs Mandela than playing football and soon rumours abounded about their involvement in clandestine activities. Her "football team" became powerful, eliminating anyone who would dare to oppose them. More rumours surfaced when it was said that many governmental informers were ordered by Winnie to death by necklacing (when a tyre is placed over an "accused's" neck and lit).

Stompie Seipei was their nemesis. A young child, only fourteen years old. He was abducted by this powerful "football" team, tortured and eventually murdered. The worst part is that this happened just a few months before the release of Nelson Mandela from captivity - a time when at last, it looked as though progress was being made to break down the barriers of apartheid.

Nelson was released and man and wife were re-united. Nelson Mandela, an icon, stood by his wife even though he had heard all the rumours of her mafiosa-like football team. He supported her and defended her at all times - even when she and her football team stood trial for the murder of Stompie, he was at her side. He believed in her. It was found that she had been involved with the death of Stompie and received a light jail sentence, but in typical Winnie-style, she managed to have the judgement overturned and walked away with a fine. One of her infamous bodyguards was sentenced for the actual death of Stompie.

By now, cracks appeared in the Mandela marriage - especially after rumours surfaced of an alleged relationship between the lady and one of her bodyguards. Nelson Mandela divorced Winnie Mandela and when he was inaugarated as first democratically-elected president of South Africa, one of his daughters was by his side - Winnie wasn't even invited to share with the podium and immediate interior of the celebrations that were held on that day - not until, Thabo Mbeki (Nelson's successor) personally invited her to sit with him and his wife. Winnie had found a way to survive again.

Against all expectations, she had been re-elected chairperson of the ANC Women's League several times and her voice is still a strong one. She despises the press who understandbly relish any opportunity to elaborate on her lifestyle. This woman, this Winnie Mandela, has spent a lifetime being victimised and oppressed. Could this be why when she was allowed to have some kind of power, she went overboard and took her anger out on a fourteen year boy? The records show that she was indirectly involved with his death, but is this any excuse? To the many that hate her, no.

She is a unique woman - I cannot say that I hate her or love her, but I most surely admire her drive and the fact that she has perfected the art of survival. The shadow of the death of poor Stompie should and will always haunt her - if anything, maybe his death brought her to her senses. May she continue to be strong, opposing injustices, but remembering not to commit any injustices herself.

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