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

2018-04-04 15:02
Winnie Madikizela-Mandela. (GCIS)

Winnie Madikizela-Mandela. (GCIS)

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Winnie Madikizela-Mandela broke the mould and became a woman admired for her determination and presence on the ground, Rivonia trialist Denis Goldberg said on Wednesday.

"What Winnie did in the whole South African society, a patriarchal society, she broke the mould. And to break the mould, she had to be quite upfront about it, to establish herself in her own right, which she achieved, and for which I admire her," he told News24 in an interview.

Goldberg said it had been painful for him to witness repeated attempts over the years to break her spirit.

"It went on for 30 years and goes on till this day. It is a terribly painful experience to observe. Women are expected to be more perfect than men."

ANALYSIS: Winnie Madikizela-Mandela: revolutionary who kept the spirit of resistance alive

After seeing her in court every day for the Rivonia Trial, it was the warmth of another meeting in a cold country many years later that stood out for him.

Winnie and Nelson Mandela had gone to Sweden to visit their old friend, ANC president Oliver Tambo, who was recovering in hospital from a stroke.

"She came down the reception hall, looked at me and said, 'I know that face. How lovely to see you'," Goldberg recalls.

"She had a wonderful, radiant, magnificent personality."

The Nina Simone song Young, Gifted and Black epitomised her spirit and determination, he said.


'In any personal relationship, we love beyond rationality' - Denis Goldberg  on Winnie Madikizela-Mandela


"She got down in the mud of Soweto and where people were attacked and children died. She was there with them. That’s why I think, I can’t be sure, people say they love her.

"It doesn’t matter about the mistakes, she was there with them. In any personal relationship, we love beyond rationality. It’s an emotion and emotions are important in love. I am moved by her life and her dedication, even when I disagreed with her," he said, choking up.

If Winnie came out hardened after spending 491 days in solitary confinement, it was to withstand or deal with the anger of being maltreated, Goldberg said, with a sigh.

Denis Goldberg

Denis Goldberg. (Nasief Manie, Netwerk24)

"In solitary confinement, men have ways of humiliating women that surpassed anything they could to men.

"Threats would be made to take their children away and put them in government institutions, with blame being put on the woman, and no one ever knowing what actually happened. Sexual abuse was also used in solitary confinement," he said.

"In the end, you say what for? It didn’t stop anything. It just created anger."

Goldberg went into exile in London after being released from prison in 1985.

He was a spokesperson for the ANC from afar and felt the distance at the height of the "war" going on in South Africa.

"She was there in a way I could never be."

Why so many attacks?

It had to be asked why there was so many attacks on her and her inner circle.

There was a running campaign to try and destroy her, Goldberg said.

"The truth of what actually happened, I don’t think will ever come out," he said, in reference to Madikizela-Mandela being implicated in the disappearance of 15-year-old activist Stompie Moeketsi Seipei.

"Every intelligence agency does it. If it happens somewhere else, we say it’s the norm, but in South Africa we blame her. And if it’s a woman, we blame her."

WATCH: 'One of our pillars has fallen' - Zuma on Mam' Winnie

He said it was painful and took courage to withstand the pressure of being in the limelight all the time, an experience he knew because of his late wife Esme.

Yet Madikizela-Mandela had stepped up and became the voice of Mandela and a representative of the liberation movement.

"We all remember her mistakes, and some were serious political mistakes, but she rose above them."

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