remembering winnie mandela

Thumb_yfgjkyr5byt3z9z5acb67c86875dStephen W. Smith at the LRB:

In apartheid South Africa, ‘the enemy’ was ever present, day and night, from the public toilets you couldn’t use to the neighbourhood you couldn’t live in, by way of police raids at first light to check on your bedfellows, or simply to keep you terrified. When Winnie Madikizela-Mandela – who died on 2 April at the age of 81 – spoke of ‘the enemy’, the words had an intimate ring.

I met her for the first time in 1988, when a French worker-priest, one of the few white people living in Soweto, took me to her house. It was late in the evening, but we just walked in. I remember the blaring TV, the flicker on the walls of a slasher movie, bottles all over, young men slouched on sofas. They were members of her vigilante gang, the so-called Mandela United Football Club. In a drunken stupor, Winnie was lying among them.

That was the period when 14-year-old James Moeketsi Seipei – nicknamed Stompie, ‘cigarette butt’, for his small size – was clobbered for days in her house, sometimes in her presence. Suspected of being a police informant, he eventually had his throat cut. In 1991, while the sunset clauses of apartheid were under negotiation, Winnie’s chief bodyguard was convicted of murder, and the ‘mother of the nation’ was sentenced to six years for kidnapping, reduced to a fine on appeal.

more here.