Mandela: Winnie made me the loneliest man

There was a fleeting moment when the sadness left Nelson Mandela's face at his divorce trial in Johannesburg yesterday. It was when his estranged wife, Winnie, first entered the courtroom. He caught sight of her, and for a moment, smiled. She, in response, turned away.

If there were any lingering doubts in the South African President's mind over his decision to end his 38 years with a woman whom he once worshipped, they must have faded away in that moment.

It was not long after that Mr Mandela told a court packed with journalists, television cameras and the curious: "If the entire universe persuaded me to reconcile with the defendant I would not ... I am determined to get rid of the marriage."

Once the icons of the anti-apartheid struggle, Nelson and Winnie Mandela are almost certain to be, finally and officially, divorced.

Mr Mandela's lawyer, Wim Trengove, argued that the President's marriage was beyond repair. He said Mr Mandela rejected his estranged wife's assertion that any arbitration could bring the two back together. There was, Mr Trengove said, simply nothing to salvage.

But it took the man himself to bring home that message. Composed but visibly sorrowful, Mr Mandela told how his wife accomplished in two years what 27 years in prison failed to achieve: she made him feel humiliated and lonely. "Ever since I came back from prison, not once has the defendant ever entered our bedroom while I was awake," the 77-year-old President told the Rand Supreme Court in Johannesburg.

"The bedroom is where a man and woman discuss the most intimate details. There were so many things I wanted to discuss with her, but she is the type of person who fears confrontation. I was the loneliest man during the period I stayed with her."

The President initiated divorce proceedings in 1992, two years after his release from jail. Mr Mandela told the court that it was her "brazen conduct" which convinced him to end the marriage. He then recounted how in August 1992 he was given a letter supposedly written by Mrs Mandela which confirmed his suspicions of her infidelity with a young lawyer from the African National Congress. He said had tried to make the parting as painless as possible for the benefit of their two daughters, Zindzi and Zenani, but felt compelled to disclose the affair. "I did not wish us to wash our dirty linen in public," he said.

Mr Mandela will be questioned today by his wife's lawyer. Mrs Mandela is expected to take the stand tomorrow when her counter claim to assess her husband's estate is heard; she is seeking at least half. It may be a small price compared to what the President said she has already taken.

peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
New Articles
i100... with this review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
footballTim Sherwood: This might be th match to wake up Manchester City
Arts and Entertainment
musicHow female vocalists are now writing their own hits
New Articles
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
Blahnik says: 'I think I understand the English more than they do themselves'
Arts and Entertainment
Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary Crawley in Downton Abbey
TVInside Downton Abbey series 5
Life and Style
The term 'normcore' was given the oxygen of publicity by New York magazine during the autumn/winter shows in Paris in February
fashionWhen is a trend a non-trend? When it's Normcore, since you ask
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Marketing Manager - Leicestershire - £35,000

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (CIM, B2B, MS Offi...

Marketing Executive (B2B and B2C) - Rugby, Warwickshire

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful organisation wit...

SEN Coordinator + Teacher (SENCO)

£1 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Job Purpose To work closely with the he...

Research Manager - Quantitative/Qualitative

£32000 - £42000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam