Sunday, August 25, 2013

Book Review: Winnie Mandela A Life

Powerful Woman
“Why is it that the men are always forgiven and the women aren't” – asked a disheartened Toni Braxton in her song, Talking in His Sleep.

That’s the question I asked myself when I finished reading Winnie Mandela A Life by Anné Mariè du Preez Bezdrob.

Winnie Mandela’s life story is the perfect example that you can swallow barb wire for your man but as soon as he feels you don’t fit in the greater scheme of things – you are out. You are lucky if you get a thank you. Winnie Mandela gave up so much for this nation and for her husband but when he got out of prison – what did he do…

If she could endure all the police brutality, being banished to an out of reach town in the Free State, prison and raising their children on a shoe-string budget – he could have made it work.
Winnie and Nelson Mandela would've been the greatest love story ever – just imagine if they were still together.

“I had so little time to love him, and that love has survived all these years of separation” – Winnie in the mid-1980s about her marriage.

Reading her story and all that she endured for the liberation and especially for her ex-husband, I’m both inspired and unsure about love. I’m inspired to keep conquering the mountains of challenges that come my way with my head held up high. Inspired to believe wholeheartedly in something and fight for it. But I’m unsure about giving my all for love. I think it’s only fair that kind of love should be returned – but that’s me and listening to too much RnB music.

When Mandela was released from prison on 11 February 1990 he read his first speech using Winnie’s reading glasses because he had forgotten his glasses in prison. It’s something small but in the world of romance it is another symbol of Winnie always having Mandela's back.

The reality is Winnie kept the liberation struggle alive at enormous personal cost – all her husband had to do was turn a blind eye to the things he didn't like about Winnie and suck it up. Women do it all the time.

“Ironically, during the long years of separation, they had been able to maintain a togetherness, but once they were reunited, both Nelson and Winnie discovered how different – and distant from one another – they had become”.

The Winnie Nelson married before prison and the Winnie he found post prison were not the same person. Challenges will make anybody change. You will find a strength inside you that you didn't know existed. The harder the challenges you face the harder you are likely to become. 

Winnie had gone through so much in the 27-years that Mandela was behind bars. He was not there to be the provider and protector that a husband is expected to be. She had to grab life by the horns; there was no time for being soft. There was no way in hell he was going to come out of prison and find the same Winnie. He should have mentally prepared himself for that. He should have prepared himself for the new Winnie. 

Alas what was done was done. Maybe she would have left him – I don’t know - I’m being an emotional woman who believes Winnie deserves more.

Not only from her marriage but from the political party she’s still a member. I feel they have not celebrated her the way she should be – they haven’t given her the acknowledgement they have given their male leaders.

Winnie is not perfect and she has her skeletons – but its politics – who doesn’t?

Winnie Mandela A Life by Anné Mariè du Preez Bezdrob is a must read if you want to learn more about the life of this remarkable woman. Winnie’s life story from birth has been of an independent thinker, fighter and someone who cared immensely for others. It's a story about strength!


  1. Can't wait to get hold of a copy myself - does it say anything about circumstances that put them asunder?

    1. Yep it does. Winnie's struggles made her tough as steel and also broke her down on many levels. She was not the same. She couldn't be the same!