Winnie vs Nadira: what did happen?

Published Mar 13, 2010


Winnie Madikizela-Mandela has broken her silence and denied saying that Nelson Mandela sold out to the whites and that Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu is a cretin.

"I did not give Ms Naipaul an interview," Madikizela-Mandela said yesterday. "It is therefore not necessary for me to respond in any detail to the contents of a fabricated interview."

The interview, published first in the London Evening Standard on Monday, was written by Nadira Naipaul, the wife of Nobel laureate Sir VS Naipaul.

It shocked the nation.

On Friday, the London Evening Standard refuted Madikizela-Mandela's claims: "Nadira Naipaul is a distinguished journalist who visited Winnie Mandela at home and spoke to her at length about her experiences," the paper said.

"Nadira and her husband, the writer Sir VS Naipaul, are photographed with Winnie Mandela, and this picture was printed with the article.

"We cannot understand Winnie Mandela's denial of an event and conversation which clearly took place."

Madikizela-Mandela said: "I will in the coming days deal with what I see as an inexplicable attempt to undermine the unity of my family, the legacy of Nelson Mandela and the high regard with which the name Mandela is held here and across the globe.

"I have already had the opportunity to speak to Bishop Tutu, who was also in Atlanta, US, where I addressed a meeting. I intend speaking with Madiba and Graca (Machel), as I regularly do. I will also have to deal with the hurt caused to my children and grandchildren by the unwarranted and untrue statements about their private lives," she said.

The ANC has refused to comment, saying it would wait for Madikizela-Mandela to explain. On Friday, she said she appreciated "the fact that my organisation, the ANC, decided to hear my side before making any judgments".

"Finally, I repeat that I did not give Ms Naipaul any interview. Any further questions about the content of that fictitious interview should be addressed to her."

The Associated Press reported on Friday that Naipaul stood by her controversial interview.

"The conversation took place as I reported, and I accurately rendered the statements that Winnie Mandela made," Naipaul said.

But some people are not so sure. On, the editor, known only as Ben, accused Naipaul of trading off her famous husband's name and publishing a kiss-and-tell account of what had happened.

He claimed Naipaul had set up the meeting despite her husband's lack of interest in meeting Madikizela-Mandela.

Other media sites have been less than flattering of Naipaul, casting aspersions on her personal and journalistic ethics.

The Saturday Star has however independently verified that the meeting did take place last July and that it was at Sir VS Naipaul's insistence as part of the research he was doing for his new novel.

He was particularly interested in how her beliefs had sustained her during her numerous detentions during the struggle. It was during this meeting that the conversation apparently digressed.

The Evening Standard article, re-published in The Star this week, quoted Madikizela-Mandela as saying the Mandela surname was an albatross around the family's neck.

"Mandela let us down. He agreed to a bad deal for the blacks. Economically, we are still on the outside. The economy is very much white. It has a few token blacks, but so many who gave their life in the struggle have died unrewarded," she was quoted as saying.

Madikizela-Mandela also allegedly told Naipaul that she would never forgive Mandela for accepting the Nobel Peace Prize along with FW de Klerk.

"You all must realise that Mandela was not the only man who suffered. There were many others, hundreds who languished in prison and died.

"There were others in the leadership too, like poor Steve Biko, who died of the beatings, horribly all alone.

"Mandela did go to prison and he went in there as a burning young revolutionary. But look what came out."

She purportedly added: "I am not alone. The people of Soweto are still with me. Look what they make him do. The great Mandela. He has no control or say anymore. They put that huge statue of him right in the middle of the most affluent white area of Johannesburg. Not here where we spilt our blood and where it all started.

"Mandela is now a corporate foundation. He is wheeled out globally to collect the money and he is content doing that. The ANC have effectively sidelined him but they keep him as a figurehead for the sake of appearance."

Naipaul is believed to have taken notes throughout. But a question remains: Why was the interview published only now, almost eight months later?

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