Winnie gets up to old tricks a

Winnie Mandela’s involvement in criminal acts made her a liability for the ANC elite, yet Mandela refused to divorce until her guilt was proven in court.

Winnie gets up to old tricks as she lays claim on Mandela’s Qunu residence

So Winnie comes out of the woodwork to contest Madiba’s last will. What else did we really ever expect from her?

Winnie gets up to old tricks a

Winnie Mandela’s involvement in criminal acts made her a liability for the ANC elite, yet Mandela refused to divorce until her guilt was proven in court.

Late president Nelson Mandela had made his intentions in regards to his legacy and will abundantly clear: his second wife Winnie Madikizela-Mandela was to get nothing out of him anymore. All the while he had also made sure that his children and outliving wife, Graca Machel, were to benefit equitably while the ANC also got a generous donation. It all seemed like a clean-cut affair. Until there was Winnie…

Winnie Mandela was present when the details of the will were read out and following this personal defeat hasn’t commented much since on how she might feel about the fact that in Mandela’s death she finally got the short end of the stick after milking his estate since their divorce. Until now, it seems.

In an embarrassing move, Winnie Mandela submitted a court application to have her divorce from Mandela in 1996 declared null and void, which – if granted – would allow her to lay claim to his Qunu residence in the Eastern Cape. It is more than unlikely that any court would even entertain the notion, but the fact that she would still publicly claim herself as “Misses Mandela” says everything about the confrontational character of the woman, who has admitted herself that the years of abuse under apartheid had broken her so much that pain had become “a way of life” for her.

“I no longer have the emotion of fear. […] there is no longer anything I can fear.”

And it must this brazen fearlessness that drove her right into this latest scandal. While political commentators have had a field day with the news of her claim to Qunu, calling the former First Lady anything from an “immoral person” to declaring her “money-grabbing”, it would hardly make for a fall from grace for a public person that many consider in the basement of poor taste already. Even some within her very own ranks have taken to social media circles to criticise the megalomaniac attempt to lay her hands on Madiba’s legacy. Still, Winnie Mandela continues to enjoy the blind support of those who are just that: wilfully blind. Having been convicted of 43 counts of fraud and 25 counts of theft while she remained at the helm of the powerful ANC Women’s League, many believe that “Mama Madiba” just slipped up and leave it at that, allowing her influence and ego to grow beyond all standards of decency.

Styling herself as “mother of the nation” Winnie Madikizela-Mandela has been causing controversy since long before her ascent into the public eye. For those whose memory is too short or age too young to remember, let’s not forgot that the downfall of the erstwhile struggle heroine dates back to the height of apartheid, when her “all necessary means” attitude towards achieving her ends culminated in the brutal killing of Stompie Moeketsi Seipei at her hands, a child activist questionably accused of being a police snitch. Her explicit execution order of the 14-year-old would be interpreted a war crime in many other territories, but in South Africa’s blood-stained past it appears to be difficult to quantify one transgression against the next, especially when the latest instalments of Winnie’s escapades looks like nothing against this backdrop of kidnapping and murder.

Of course, if we travel back further in time we will recall that this is also the same woman, whose acts of incitement to violence eclipsed those of some of the darkest figures in the history of apartheid, turning the phrase “necklacing” into a term adopted by the Oxford Dictionary and giving torture a whole new facelift, long before she had made a habit of her own cosmetic adjustments in more recent years.

All of these crimes have meticulously been documented in the transcripts of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearings. But while some of the henchmen of apartheid like Eugene de Kock have received lifelong prison sentences for their unspeakable crimes (and justly so), Winnie Mandela enjoyed saint-like absolution, without any attention paid to the fact that both these figures were the living symptoms of the same disease at the time. While her husband was reaching out to bring South Africans of all colours together after long having changed his tone and rhetoric and having redeemed himself in the eyes of the entire globe, Winnie remained largely defiant, stoical and almost as ignorant as she seems to be with the latest episode of “Winnie-gate”, with the small exception that in the 1990s, the long arm of the law at least attempted to force her to face her demons whilst now her demons seem to be dancing all over Madiba’s grave.

How she still remains as a symbol of victory in many eyes is as much part of South Africa’s tragedy as it is part of her own: in a culture, where violence is perpetrated as the benchmark of power while the power of the state is painfully limited when it comes to protecting its own citizens (but appears to fiddling in the deepest corners of everyone’s private lives to protect the sins of its own leaders), Winnie Mandela’s refrain sounds like a dying nation’s swansong on repeat, with the record skipping at the same note and slowly dulling South Africa’s collective minds to her dissonant and shrill persona.

Many would say that there’s no denying that corruption runs deep through every fibre of the South African psyche, from the moral kind to the despotic. Some claim that things are slowly getting better, others defend this absurd level of corruption by painting it as part of South Africa’s lively and colourful soul. Whatever the case, there is corruption and then there is Winnie Mandela. When it comes to a track record like that laid by Winnie Madela, it is best to call a spade a spade before it starts digging Madiba’s body out for nothing but purely egotistical reasons.