Mama Winnie died of a broken heart - close family friend from Brandfort

2018-04-06 08:30
Winnie Madikizela-Mandela has died. (File)

Winnie Madikizela-Mandela has died. (File) (File photo)

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Winnie Madikizela-Mandela's friend of the family during the time the struggle icon was banished to Brandfort in 1977 believes that she died of a broken heart.

"I believe she died with a broken heart. Perhaps some of the things that are happening now contributed to her health.

"The same thing happened to Uncle Ahmed Kathrada. These are people who struggled for this country to be free, that see their hard work being abused like it is being abused right now," said Disco "Oupa" Mothekhe, 60, who shared memories of Madikizela-Mandela during the time she was banished to the small Free State town.

"She came here at around 1977, somewhere there. Until 1987, when she left. On her coming here, there used to be cops monitoring her and the many people who might have visited the place. There is a koppie somewhere there that overlooks the community.

"They used to stay there and use binoculars."

READ: Talks to move Winnie Madikizela-Mandela memorial service to bigger venue

Madikizela-Mandela and her children, Zindzi and Zenani, were given the Brandfort house in which to live in 1977.

Under police watch

The house, which was meant to be turned into a museum some 10 years ago, was until recently a haven for sex workers, drug lords and the scene of many rapes, News24 was told during a visit to the community this week.

Madikizela-Mandela died on Monday at Netcare's Milpark Hospital after a long illness.

She was 81.

READ: ANC's 10-day programme to honour Winnie Madikizela-Mandela

Mothekhe said when he and others entered the premises, they were always under the watchful eye of the apartheid security police.

"What would happen is that after the visit they would come to our homes to question us on what we were doing at Winnie's place."

The retired teacher said he became a close family friend.

"I used to move around with Zindzi and sometimes with Mama Winnie. I was always running errands for her.

READ: 'Winnie rose above her mistakes', says teary Rivonia trialist Denis Goldberg

Warm, welcoming environment

"I sometimes would drive from here to Bloemfontein to carry a message from her because she had some acquaintances in Bloemfontein.

"My wife, her father used to run a taxi and he would phone her father to pick her up to make phone calls, she would also make some phone calls from my wife's father's home. That is how close we were to her.

"She had two cars and one kombi, she used to own - you know - those Volkswagen beetles," recalled Mothekhe.

Initially, he said, people could only access the house at dusk because people knew that they were being watched.

"But as time went on, we became less careful and went there whenever we pleased."

Mothekhe remembers Madikizela-Mandela's home as having been a very warm and welcoming environment.

Exchanging ideas

"She liked cooking for us. She would cook anything but she preferred chicken. We would then enjoy ourselves with wine and she was always jovial."

Of course, he said, they would discuss politics on occasion.

"I remember in the 80s when there was PW Botha; he had crossed the Rubicon. Rubicon was when he changed Parliament to get representatives from the Indian and the coloureds but not blacks and then I asked Mama Winnie about that. I asked her what her view was on that."

He said she responded: "This was not freedom for us, even for those who have opted for that Parliament."

Mothekhe said there was always an exchange of ideas around issues such as what landed former president Nelson Mandela, her former husband, and others on Robben Island.

Mothekhe was in his 20s when he befriended the family.

'Left with scoundrels'

"I remember that elderly people here around Brandfort: They were always afraid of her and they did not want to mingle and interact with her because they were afraid of the police.

"They were told never to go into her place.  And you know elderly people - to them apartheid was a normal life. They were not yet enlightened; they had been indoctrinated."

He said Madikizela-Mandela helped to politically conscientise the young people in the community.

Describing "Mamane", as she was affectionately known in the community, he said: "She was a straight-forward person. Her 'no' was 'no' and her 'yes' was 'yes' and I am sad that she has left us with people who call themselves leader but they are scoundrels today. Nowhere have you heard that Mama Winnie has plundered money which was meant for the community.

"What we are left with now are leaders that are scoundrels: Some of them are calling her names now as if she would have acceded to what they are doing right now; it is not true.

"Look at the place where the museum was meant to be built," he said of the house to which Madikizela-Mandela was banished.

Drug house

"The house was meant to have been converted into a museum more than 10 years ago. The monies - we heard - were allocated but they have been squandered," he said.

He said President Cyril Ramaphosa had to see to it that "these scoundrels" are held accountable.

"Some of them must be jailed," he said.

Mothekhe said the house was standing empty and was being vandalised.

"It is being used by thugs who rape our children. Go and see for yourself what the house looks like."

When News24 visited the house it was in a deplorable state.

'What can we do?'

The paint on the walls outside was cracked. When one walked into one of the rooms, there was the pungent smell of urine.

"Ramaphosa has a lot to do because some of the scoundrels are around him."

To say he felt bad about the state of the house was "an understatement", he said.

"You become angry and helpless, but what can we do?"

He said he heard of Madikizela-Mandela's death on the news.

"I heard on the radio before 16:00 news. Someone said something bad had happened to Mama Winnie."

ANCWL 'not real leaders'

He then saw on TV that the struggle icon had died after a long illness.

"I was very shocked. We were not yet ready for her to leave us, more so now when we have to deal with the new dawn. These scoundrels are going to push back because they are used to corruption so we needed a soldier like Mama Winnie to be on our side. It is a sorry state of affairs," he said.

He said there would never be another leader like Madikizela-Mandela.

"Especially in women. Those women you see in the [ANC] Women's League, they have been placed there so that factions can influence branches to elect a certain individual who they know they are going to use to woo the women's support. They are not real leaders."

He said honest leaders were being marginalised.

"That is the problem. We still have good leaders, but they are being marginalised. Mama Winnie taught us to tell things as they are without fear or favour."

'Stick to the truth'

Mothekhe said he would love to make it to Madikizela-Mandela's funeral on April 14.

"I am not sure because of financial constraints if I will be able to make it."

He said he would like to pay his respects and tribute to Madikizela-Mandela.

"The biggest lesson she taught me was to toughen up against any adversary and any enemy. And if you know the truth, stick with the truth no matter what the enemy may bring you.

"Many people in our country do not live the truth hence we are in the mess that we are in. Where are the Guptas? They are laughing at us because we could not stick with the truth."

He also spoke about the matter of the death of teenager Stompie Seipei, to whose killing Madikizela-Mandela has been linked.

"It was found that the coach of Mandela United was responsible for those boys. People were murdered or slain on rumours that they were impimpis [sell-outs] without proof, so I think that that might have been the case with Stompie."

He said he did not think that Madikizela-Mandela would have allowed the killing of the teenager.

"It happened without her knowing."

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