Winnie Madikizela-Mandela. File photo: INLSA


Former president Nelson Mandela’s health remains stable, but he has lost his voice and uses his face to communicate with family and doctors. He is receiving round-the-clock treatment from 22 doctors in the next best thing to an intensive care unit at his Houghton home.

Although his condition was not critical, the 95-year-old was no longer able to talk, “because of all the tubes that are in his mouth to clear the lungs” and prevent further infection, said Madiba’s former wife, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela.

As a result, “he can’t actually articulate anything”, she told the Sunday Tribune in a wide-ranging interview this week.

“He communicates with the face, you see. But the doctors have told us they hope to recover his voice.

“It is difficult for him,” she said.

“He remains very sensitive to any germs so he has to be kept literally sterile. The bedroom there (in Houghton) is like an ICU ward.

“He remains quite ill,” she continued. “But thank God the doctors were able to pull him through from that (last) infection.”

The 77-year-old said she was also grateful that Madiba was in “an atmosphere he recognises” at his residence.

Madikizela-Mandela spoke to the Sunday Tribune at her Soweto home and although she focused largely on her prison diaries, published earlier this year under the title, 491 Days: Prisoner number 1323/69, she spoke about an array of issues, not least of which was politics and the disarray in which the country finds itself.

“I’m frightened,” she said.

“It is no secret the country is seeking revenge.

“The poorest of the poor are seething with rage and whether our government is aware of the anger of the people, I have no idea,” she said rhetorically.

“Our weakness is to try and undermine what is happening and be dismissive, but it is our reality now. I have told the ANC: wide-scale unemployment in any country is a ticking time bomb, and now we are watching Julius (Malema) rally those youths behind him.”

The interview took place about a week after advocate Dali Mpofu defected from the ANC to Malema’s Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) .

Despite rumours to the contrary, Madikizela-Mandela insists that she has not been approached by Malema to follow in the footsteps of Mpofu.

“No he hasn’t. Not at all,” she laughed.

Nor, she says, does she have any intention to become a commissar of the EFF of her own accord.

“I belong to the African National Congress. I am the ANC,” she responded in wry tones.

Yet, the so-called “Mother of the Nation” was not surprised that Malema had decided to become an opposition force to the ruling party.

“I can’t blame Julius for what he has done, because we - the ANC - are responsible for that.

“I cautioned my organisation at that time - when they were contemplating expelling him,” she said.

“We knew his potential as a politician, activist and a leader.

“We knew he would do something else. He is a consequence of our own wrongdoing.

“I felt he should have been contained in the ranks of the movement, because on the other side of the fence he can do more damage.”

Malema, she believes, is whipping up significant support among constituencies that have been ignored by the ANC.

“We would be foolish to think he is not a player or that he is not changing the political landscape in some way. These are very dangerous and worrying times,” she said.

Madikizela-Mandela, who is also a member of the ANC’s national executive committee, was also critical of the way her organisation handled the public protector and the Nkandla debacle.

“I have great admiration for Thuli (Madonsela). She has been so brave, which is what it should be like. But I am extremely concerned about what is happening to her and the tendency of destroying strong black women in our society. We attack them, which is a very low thing to do. Why? All because of Nkandla. That is what the people of Bekkersdal were telling me,” she said of her visit to the troubled township on the outskirts of Johannesburg a week ago; days after Premier Nomvula Mokonyane had told the residents that the ANC did not want their “dirty votes”.

“They are saying, ‘we are killed if we oppose anything. We are now afraid of one another. We are turning on one another.’ It has come to that. We can’t pretend that all is well. I mean the fact that we have Cope, we now have EFF - those were members of the ANC.

“The reality is we have lost those votes. We cannot pretend (those new parties) appeared from outer space. Those were strong members of the ANC.”

Which is all the more reason not to throw away votes at a time when the voter base is challenged, she said.

Madikizela-Mandela phoned Mokonyane to tell her as much, but found the premier “defensive” on the other end of the line. - Sunday Tribune