Winnie Mandela assails ANC leaders Plan to share power criticized

January 08, 1993|By Jerelyn Eddings | Jerelyn Eddings,Johannesburg Bureau

SOWETO, South Africa -- Winnie Mandela emerged from political isolation yesterday to launch a scathing attack on leaders of the African National Congress, which is headed by her estranged husband Nelson.

Speaking at the grave site of Helen Joseph, a celebrated anti-apartheid campaigner who died last month at the age of 87, Mrs. Mandela criticized ANC leaders for cutting a deal to share power between "the elite of the oppressed and the oppressors."

It was the first major speech by Mrs. Mandela since she was forced to resign her ANC positions last April after her highly publicized breakup with Mr. Mandela and her conviction on assault and kidnapping charges.

A tough woman with a reputation for militancy against the apartheid system, she seemed to be signaling her intention to do combat with the organization that once was synonymous with her name.

She also seemed to be making a direct challenge to her husband, who is leading the ANC in negotiations with the white-minority government of President F. W. de Klerk.

Mrs. Mandela did not make her precise plan clear, but she always has had her own following among the "young lions" of the movement, the radical youngsters of the townships.

Many in that group believe Mr. Mandela is making too many concessions to the de Klerk government and getting too little in return. Mrs. Mandela may be planning to capitalize on that discontent.

Mr. Mandela did not attend the burial of Mrs. Joseph, a white woman, in a black cemetery in the township of Soweto beside her longtime colleague, Lilian Ngoyi. He had paid tribute to Mrs. Joseph earlier at a funeral service in Johannesburg.

Dozens of other ANC leaders sat in stony silence as Mrs. #F Mandela delivered her bitter and blistering attack.

She said Mrs. Joseph had suffered years of persecution in a struggle to bring democracy to South Africa, but would not have seen her dream come true even if she had lived to be 100.

"Death may have favored Mama by sparing her from the looming disaster in this country which will result from the distortion of a noble goal in favor of a short-cut route to Parliament by a handful of individuals," she said.

The comment elicited cheers from some, boos from others and stunned silence from many in the crowd of about 2,500.

Mrs. Joseph, a British-born school teacher who came to South Africa in 1931, was a major figure in the anti-apartheid movement for four decades.

She was a close friend of the Mandelas, and Mrs. Mandela always said she was like a mother to her, especially during the 27 years Nelson Mandela was in prison.

Mrs. Joseph was described as a tireless campaigner against apartheid, who along with Mrs. Ngoyi organized a dramatic 1956 march by 20,000 women.

She was subjected to more than 20 years of official harassment by the government, including detention, house arrest and various restrictions on her movements and activities.

The restrictions were lifted when she was 79 years old.

Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu eulogized Mrs. Joseph as a stalwart in the anti-apartheid struggle.

"She came from overseas, but she did not come to exploit. Helen identified with and had solidarity with the oppressed people," he said. "She was a distinguished member of a noble struggle against the viciousness of apartheid."

Mrs. Joseph's funeral was as unusual as her life in South Africa. Most of the more than 3,000 mourners who packed the church were black.

The coffin was draped in the ANC's colors, black, gold and green. And at one point during the ceremony young people in the church began to do the toyi-toyi, the dance of the revolution.

Her decision to be buried in Soweto next to Mrs. Ngoyi's grave was her final slap at apartheid. An ANC spokesman said she is the only white person in the cemetery.

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