‘I gave Winnie the chance to rise again’

2010-03-15 10:45

NELSON Mandela’s embattled former wife and ANC national executive

committee member Winnie Madikizela- ­Mandela should stand by her controversial

words and show the great leadership for which she has become known.

This is according to journalist Lady Nadira Naipaul, who last week

penned an explosive ­interview with Madikizela-Mandela in London’s Evening

Standard newspaper.

Speaking exclusively to City Press from her home in Wiltshire,

England, Naipaul said that she stood by the contents of the interview, which was

conducted in July last year when she visited Madikizela-Mandela’s home in Soweto

with her husband, Nobel literature prize laureate Sir VS Naipaul.

The interview made headlines across the world, notably because of

Madikizela- ­Mandela’s perceived attack on her former ­husband’s legacy. She was

quoted as saying that Mandela had “sold out” black South Africans and that the

Mandela name was “an albatross around the necks” of her and her family.

She laid into the Nelson Mandela Foundation, accusing it of

“wheeling out” the revered elder statesman as a fund-raising gimmick, and

reportedly dismissed the Truth and Reconciliation Commission as “a religious


Naipaul said yesterday that she wrote her ­article “with great

respect and admiration” for Madikizela-Mandela, and she was disappointed that

the latter was now denying she had granted the interview. The meeting arose out

of a conversation Naipaul had with guests at a dinner party, s everal of whom

were criticising Madikizela-Mandela: “They were reviling her and I was defending


Naipaul reportedly told the dinner party guests she had seen

another side of the prominent anti-apartheid icon and had great respect and

admiration for her and all that she had done for South Africa.

Madikizela-Mandela, who has been in the US the past two weeks, issued a brief

statement yesterday labelling the interview as “fictitious” and said she planned

to “deal with” what she called an “inexplicable ­attempt” to ­destroy the unity

of her family.

City Press has, however, independently verified that the Naipauls

did pay a visit to Madikizela-Mandela at her Orlando East home last year during

the couple’s brief stay in ­Johannesburg. The author, whom some have called the

greatest living writer in the English language, was in South Africa researching

material for his new book which is reportedly about “earth ­religions” on the


VS Naipaul – who met with a wide range of people during his stay,

from kwaito stars to sangomas and “diversity trainers” – requested an audience

with Madikizela-Mandela to discuss how her religious beliefs had sustained her

­during her numerous detentions and imprisonments under apartheid.

Nadira Naipaul, who took notes during the ­interview, disputed that

Madikizela-­Mandela thought she was having a private conversation.

“She was very open. Also, she knew that Vidia was researching a

book and that I was a journalist. If she was a real statesman she would stand by

everything she said, and not deny it.”

Nadira, who until her marriage and relocation to England had

written under the name ­Nadira Khannum Alvi, was an influential and well-known

journalist and columnist in her ­native Pakistan. She also contributed ­to

­several UK publications, including Tatler magazine.

She said Madikizela-Mandela should have used the opportunity

provided by the publication of the interview’s to articulate what was on the

minds of many ordinary South Africans.

Asked why she thought her interview had ­become such a sensation,

she said: “I think it’s because she is voicing what some people (in South

Africa) feel but would never dare say.”

Naipaul said of Madikizela-Mandela’s denial: “No one has the

courage to tell it like it is, and she did.”

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