South Africa’s Minister of Arts and Culture, Nathi Mthethwa, has announced on Twitter that a start has finally been made on the reconstruction of the house in which Mama Winnie Madikizela-Mandela was forced to live. The late anti-apartheid activist and former wife of Nelson Mandela was banned in May 1977 and banished to the small, semi-rural town of Brandfort in the Free State province, in an effort by the apartheid government to silence her potent voice and curtail her political influence.
In a poster titled “Unveiling of the Winnie Mandela Building Project” the Minister said, “I will be in Brandfort, Free State on the occasion of starting the construction of the house of one of the mothers of our nation, a fighter and heroine of our struggle, uMama Winnie Madikizela Mandela, as we continue to honour her legacy and ensure that her memory lives on for generations to come.”
Mama Winnie’s unassuming home is to be renovated and converted into a museum. Thus far, the construction of this museum has been mired in corruption, scandal and controversy. In 2012, US$208 000 (R3 million) was allocated to the Free State Independent Development Trust (IDT) but the money “disappeared”. According to the news website News24, “an audit report commissioned by the Department of Arts and Culture (DAC) found that nearly R600 000 paid to two contractors for the beleaguered Winnie Madikizela-Mandela Museum project in the Free State amounted to ‘fruitless expenditure”.”
The new contractors responsible for the project are expected to restore the dwelling and the bombed clinic, converting them into interpretative spaces. They will also build a multi-purpose centre with Wi-Fi facilities and a parking area.
Mama Winnie’s legacy looms large in her country of birth and her name was recently put forward when the potential renaming of the Cape Town International Airport came up. This has caused even more controversy in a country that has such a complicated and problematic past – and present.
Photograph: Anti-Apartheidskämpferin Winnie Mandela Stirbt mit 81 Jahren by Marco Verch