I dug Winnie, she stood her ground

Wednesday. The truncated week courtesy of a work-free Monday has an off-kilter feel about it. The day in the ocean was marvellous but there’s a feeling of imbalance.

It’s been a day and a half since the death of Winnie Madikizela-Mandela but there’s a sense of unreality that hasn’t dissipated yet. Winnie was 81 and battling with ill health but her death still hit us like a rocket out of nowhere.

I dug Madikizela-Mandela. Not just because she shares a name with my mom. And a refusal to be told what to do by any man: husband, cop, son or otherwise.

I loved what Madikizela-Mandela represented; her courage, her refusal to back down in the face of oppression of any kind, her ability to step outside party lines and do the right thing — no matter what it cost her.

I never got the opportunity to meet Madikizela-Mandela, interview her or even shake her hand. Hug her. Breathe in her scent.

I’m poorer for it.

It’s okay. I’m richer for her having been alive. For her spirit. As long as I can remember politics, Madikizela-Mandela was there, a rallying point for resistance to apartheid in the worst of times. She took everything the regime could throw at her, withstood treatment that would have destroyed most humans. Survived the worst they could do.

Madikizela-Mandela beat the Nats on her own terms. Stood her ground, fought them tooth and nail and won.

Madikizela-Mandela was the real thing. She had power and she knew how to wield it.

The bile spewed on social media by white racists in response to her death is sick. Their filth shows just how much fear the woman strikes into their hearts. Even in death.

To most racists who lived through apartheid, Nelson Mandela and Oliver Tambo were distant enemies, jailed or in exile. Madikizela-Mandela was the enemy at home, the terrorist woman who stood in their midst, looked them in the eye and defeated them. Led, ever so stylishly, the army of stone-throwers and tyre-burners.

I hit the TV remote. Former president Jacob Zuma is outside the Madikizela-Mandela home to pay his respects. Fair enough.

Daddy looks broken by her death. Daddy’s words of condolence are real, from the heart. Daddy speaks slowly, simply, the way he does when he means it. His words have to bring some form of succour to the family.

It’s only two days before former uBaba ka State Capture finally gets his day in court that he’s been talking about since 2005.

I wonder whether Daddy’s excited about getting the chance to clear his name. He’s been mumbling about it for more than a decade. Amped to get back in the dock. Suited up in front of the judges. Back in the limelight. Perhaps Daddy likes being surrounded by a phalanx of legal counsel with a bigger budget than Swaziland. Perhaps he gets a thrill from being the source of so much drama. Thrives on being a national disgrace, splitting the ANC.


Then again, the man from Nxamalala’s defensive mantra may be as tired — and thin — to him as it is to the rest of us. If that’s the case, Daddy must be shitting himself. Dreading Friday, even though it’s only a remand hearing.

The only cards Daddy has left to play are the threat of street violence by his new friends in the undertaking and building-site hijacking industries. And a hyper-expensive legal strategy aimed at delaying the inevitable for as long as possible.

The ANC has cut Daddy loose, so he’ll use whatever support from wherever he can get it until it dries up.

Daddy’s consultations with Kemp J Kemp SC, the head of his legal team, must be something else.

And his tab. I wonder how it works, especially now that the presidency wants to pull the plug on Daddy’s legal fees? How many bar does Kemp charge Daddy for delaying the inevitable for a year? Does Mike Hulley take a walk and come back with a briefcase full of cash? Or a coffin full of notes from the undertaker bras?

Eventually, all the delaying tactics will be played out. Finished.

After that, it’s time to pay the piper. Face the judge and explain away the bar and a half from Schabir Shaik. And all the unsuccessful interventions on Scabies’s behalf while Daddy was KwaZulu-Natal economic development MEC. And the half a bar from French arms peddlers Thint, just for being a nice guy.

By that time the charges stemming from Daddy’s years as president should have been processed and he’ll have to answer for the acts of state capture by his bras, including the Gupta family. He could go to court from Westville Prison. Or Eshowe, given its proximity to his home.

No suit. Orange overalls and leg irons. Armed wardens at his side instead of black-suited bodyguards. Cold KFC for lunch in the grill under the courtroom.

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Paddy Harper
Paddy Harper

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