Today it’s Winnie Mandela’s 75th Birthday. I cannot deny feeling lots of admiration for this icon of the liberation struggle. The police files I once had an opportunity to go through discretely are evidence of decades of nagging, rumour mongering, intimidation and oppression. I forgot how many times she was arrested. What drove so many in the apartheid security forces mad was Winnie’s conviction that she should stand as a woman of her own, not the wife-of. It irritated some in the ANC as well.
She has made mistakes. Many. She had made an analysis of these mistakes even before ‘things went horribly wrong’, as arch bishop Tutu said. ‘After all the intimidation I have taken over the methods of the enemy,’ she stated in a biography that was published in the beginning of the eighties. Winnie’s ongoing popularity amongst many black South Africans has everything to do with this honest explanation, an understanding that the South African struggle for freedom was a just struggle, not a very heroic one.
In the sad days of apartheid oppression, state of emergencies declared again and again, informer’s of the regime in every corner of black townships, humanistic values died first, at both sides.
Winnie represents that understanding of human’s nature, and that is why she is still admired by some many.