Winnie Mandela on the warpath

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The Independent Online
WHAT IS Winnie Mandela up to? Is she out to destroy the African National Congress? Is she planning to establish a radical break-away wing? Is she after the job of the husband who left her?

These and similar questions were on the lips of every observer of the South African political scene yesterday after the country's two biggest Sunday newspapers carried what amounted to an open letter from the erstwhile 'mother of the nation' urging the masses to revolt.

The message, in essence, was that ANC negotiators, by compromising on the question of 'power-sharing', had sold out to the ruling National Party (NP). The time had come for the leadership to be replaced by a new breed truly representative of the aspirations of 'the oppressed'.

'The NP elite is getting into bed with the ANC,' Mrs Mandela wrote in the Sunday Star and the Sunday Times, 'in order to preserve its silken sheets. And the leadership in the ANC is getting into bed with the NP to enjoy this new-found luxury.

'The concern is that this new amalgam of power is promoting its own self-interest and overlooking the plight and needs of the under-privileged masses . . .'

'The quick-fix solutions sought by our leaders,' she went on, 'can only benefit a few and will backfire massively on the country as a whole.

'The disillusion that will follow when the masses awaken to the fact that they have not been included in the new freedom and in the new wealth enjoyed by their leaders will have worse implications than what we experienced in the 1970s and 1980s, and will plunge the country irrevocably into yet another vortex of mass violence and protest.'

Mrs Mandela, whose conviction on charges of assaulting and kidnapping a black teenager is due for appeal in the first half of this year, went out of her way to dispel speculation - which has been rife for some months - that she was planning to form a new political party. No, her ambitions were something more akin to an internal revolt.

'I am not about to abandon the ANC to the mercies of elitist politicians,' she said, 'because the leadership is failing the people does not mean that the organisation has failed; that leadership can and will be changed by the people in order to resurrect the organisation into one which represents their interests. If I have support I will locate that support within the ANC.'