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Winnie Mandela talks about former husband

Tuesday 2 Jul 2013 8:07 a.m.

As Nelson Mandela remains in hospital, his former wife Winnie Mandela says she is angry that some people are talking as if he has already passed away.

"This is so, so cruel, so inhuman," she says.

Winnie was at Mandela's side when he emerged from prison 23 years ago.

"It was the greatest moment of my life and the greatest moment for South Africans, because we equated his release with freedom."

But they soon separated and just two years after the joy of Mandela becoming the first black president of South Africa, they divorced.

"It was extremely, extremely traumatic," she says. "I don't think it was of his making. It was just the forces of change at the time made it impossible for a normal life."

She says she will always love him because he is the father of her children.

"Nothing changes because he is married to someone else."

She has a "great relationship" with Mandela's new wife Graça Machel – they call each other "big sister" and "little sister".

In Winnie's Soweto home is a room devoted to memories of her former husband and their life together – including his favourite picture of her, the only picture he kept while he was imprisoned on Robben Island for nearly 20 years.

Winnie believes Mandela will be disappointed change for the poor has not come more quickly.

"It is no secret that the youth of our land is very angry."

It was angry youths Winnie rallied in the 1980s in the fight against apartheid. But the firebrand leader was engulfed in controversy, accused of murder and convicted of kidnapping – allegations she denied then, and denies now.

"I don't give a damn about those allegations. They were made by the apartheid regime."

For Zindzi Mandela, who fought against the apartheid regime alongside her parents, the world reaction to her father's decline is overwhelming.

"You're touched by it, but then you're also having to confront the reality of the inevitability that death is a part of life," she says.





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