South Africa's ruling party élite was spectacularly snubbed by Winnie Madikizela-Mandela when she chose to attend a memorial service for the country's last white first lady rather than the state funeral of its first black defence minister, Joe Modise.
Nelson Mandela's former wife told journalists at the service in Pretoria on Saturday for Marike de Klerk that her murder last week was an indictment of the country and a sign that all South Africans should join the fight against crime. She said of former president F W de Klerk's ex-wife: "It is a tragedy that a woman who has contributed so much to the history of our country should have left us in such a tragic manner. Perhaps it is God's way of waking us up to what is happening. Crime has been brought to the attention of each and every one of us. No matter who we are or what our standing in the community is, we should do something about it as South Africans and as the government."
Mrs Madikizela-Mandela, who chairs the African National Congress women's league, faces trial on fraud charges and has fallen from favour in senior ANC circles. She is understood to be in severe financial difficulty.
Her presence at the memorial service for Mrs de Klerk, who opposed majority rule, was a clear insult to President Thabo Mbeki and the ANC leadership. Flags have been at half-mast all over South Africa for Mr Modise, who died two weeks ago from cancer. At his thinly attended funeral service in Johannesburg, President Mbeki said a memorial would be built to the 72-year-old former defence minister who led the armed wing of the ANC during the struggle against apartheid.
Mrs Madikizela-Mandela was one of few black mourners at Mrs de Klerk's memorial service, which followed a private burial in Pretoria. Mr de Klerk said: "It is my sincere hope that this dastardly deed will once again act as a wake-up call to all of us that we must get a grip on the crime situation."
This week the South African government is expected to publish its first crime statistics for more than a year. About 21,000 people are murdered each year, making South Africa one of the few states whose citizens are more likely to be murdered than die in a road accident.
Luyanda Mboniswa, 21, a security guard at the apartment block where Mrs de Klerk was killed, is due to appear in court today charged with her murder. Police want to interview a second guard from the complex.Reuse content