Winnie Madikizela-Mandela fell out of favour with some ANC leaders when she stood firm against those who wanted to hijack the “Release Mandela campaign” of the late 80s.
Former ANC Youth League president Lulu Johnson, who is now a member of parliament, revealed this yesterday, saying he had vivid memories of how the ANC’s Johnny-come-latelies wanted to be at the forefront when the Nationalist government resolved to release the late struggle stalwart Nelson Mandela in 1990.
Johnson said at the time, Madikizela-Mandela was working closely with the likes of Aubrey Mokwena and Jabu Ngwenya, preparing for Madiba’s release on a campaign known as the “Release Mandela campaign”.
“Those were people who were working hard insofar as making sure that the old man was to return home safe.
“They were doing that work closely with the old lady,” Johnson said.
“But closer to the time when the old man was to be released, we witnessed quite a number of unfortunate situations that meant those who were there in the “Release Mandela” campaign structures would have seen themselves, if you like, elbowed out and suddenly there were new champions.
“The old lady did not take kindly to that.”
His revelations come a day after eNCA broadcast a documentary on the late stalwart called Winnie Mandela Road to Freedom, which depicted the anti-apartheid struggle hero as a victim vilified by both her comrades in the mass democratic movement and by the apartheid regime.
Johnson said he partly recalls how some people wanted to project Mama Winnie as ill-disciplined.
He said there were many dynamics at the time.
“They really went to lengths to vilify her [Madikizela-Mandela] and all sorts of accusations were levelled at her.
“All sorts of initiatives were also started to ensure that her name was tainted.”
The Port Elizabeth-born leader, who also served as a former Congress of South African Students Congress (Cosas) president between 1984-1986, was part of group of former youth leaders who visited Madikizela-Mandela’s Orlando West home yesterday.
Various leaders and ordinary citizens alike have been paying homage there to the icon.
Madikizela-Mandela, 81, died at Milpark Hospital in Johannesburg following a long illness.
Johnson said the ANCYL was as good as dead and the only way to honour Mama Winnie would be to have active, as well as militant yet disciplined, young men and women.
“The old lady should be remembered and emulated by young women and men being militant, and being disciplined as they do so.”
He added that in this day and age there was a serious lack of progressive young voices, “meaning the YL that is supposed to be there championing the interests of young people is absent”.
Johnson succeeded the late ANCYL president Peter Mokaba in 1994, a generation whose youth were dubbed ‘young lions’.
He led a team of yesteryear’s young lions to Madikizela-Mandela’s home that included former Azanian student congress leaders such as Joe Phaahla, Aaron Motsoaledi and Tom Nkoane.
Johnson said yesterday’s visit was to pay homage and respect and offer condolences to both the Madikizela and Mandela families.
“This we do as those who were with the old lady, the generations of the youth in the 80s.
“This is the generation of death defiers and fearless young people of the 80s,” he said.