May 2017 1st Edition

This month in history - May 2017(1)

International relations / Africa news

Winnie Mandela is banished to Brandfort

16 May 1977

It was in May that Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, wife of former President Nelson Mandela, was banished to the dusty Afrikaner dominated town of Brandfort in the Free State where she was unceremoniously dumped at house 802 with her youngest daughter, Zinzi.

There was no running water or electricity and the house had no floors or ceilings. The people spoke mainly Sotho, Tswana or Afrikaans and hardly any Xhosa, which was Winnie's home language.

Winnie took a provocative stance and would spend hours in the White shops empowering the shop-keepers with political ideologies.

In her banishment order, Winnie was given the option of either leaving South Africa for Swaziland or Transkei, which was regarded as independent by the South African government.

However, she chose to remain in South Africa, where she continued fighting for the liberation of her people and was at times arrested for defying her banishment order.

Her life in Brandfort was lonely. Her youngest daughter was sent away to study, whilst her oldest daughter had married a Swazi Prince and moved to America.

Helen Suzman captured the isolation when she wrote that Winnie waited outside the local telephone booth between 10 am and 4 pm waiting for calls from friends and relations.

However, when friends, like Helen Joseph, Barbara Waite, Ilona Kleinschmidt, and others came to visit her in Brandfort, they were harassed and often taken to court and imprisoned for not notifying the authorities about their visits.

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