In Mandela: from Prison to President on ITV at 10.40pm, Mrs Mandela implies that her separation from her husband - two years after he emerged from 27 years in prison - was forced on them by political expediency. 'It was too much for him to handle the question of a wife . . . whose name had been dragged in so much mud. He couldn't deal with that . . . He found himself having to make choices. And if you lead a country that has great expectations of you, what do you do?'
Mrs Mandela, who is playing an active though somewhat maverick role in the election campaign, goes on to suggest that her husband's advisers persuaded him that further sacrifices were necessary. 'He had given up his family for 27 years. What would it have really meant? I suppose they convinced him in that regard. What would it have meant to give it up if it was going to stand in his way of assuming the leadership of his people.'
'Our love for each other has never been dented,' Mrs Mandela insists. 'What happened was just a situation and separation and we love each other as we have always loved each other from the moment we met those many years ago.' Mrs Mandela says that, in some respects, she is still waiting for her husband to come back to her. 'We are all still waiting for perhaps that time at the end of the struggle when he will be with his family . . . Some day he will have the luxury of having a nucleus of a family, some day we'll also know what it would have been like to lead a normal life.'
Despite her fall from grace Mrs Mandela has re-emerged as the leading voice of the radical wing of the ANC. She says the greatest problem her husband will face as president of the new South Africa will be meeting the expectations of poor blacks. 'In a country that hasn't got the resources, the future government is going to have to deal with that question of inaccessibility of resources to the masses of the people on the ground.'
Asked if she believes her husband has been too soft on the whites, she responds: 'We wouldn't be where we are if he hadn't adopted that position to allay the fears of minorities, who would have felt threatened if he was as radical as myself for instance.'