“One should not speak ill of the dead, but I shall make an exception,” wrote Andrew Malone in the UK’s right-wing tabloid Daily Mail, promising to reveal “the dark side…cannot be swept under the carpet.”

“Winnie Mandela was an odious, toxic individual who continued to preach hatred rather than reconciliation right up to the end of her life,” he wrote, describing her affair with a younger man and the victims of the violence she allegedly orchestrated in Soweto.

The unspoken discussion

Yes, Madkizela-Mandela resorted to violence in retaliation, was embroiled in corruption and was not the dutiful wife of a liberation leader. Yet now Madikizela-Mandela’s critics have been as harsh and unforgiving as they accuse her of being. There is no one simple image of what a political figure who has endured so much should look like.

Her continued, post-apartheid radicalism reflected South Africans’ own ongoing frustration and she remained a pillar of her community and a champion for the poor. South Africa is indebted to her for the decades of sacrifices she made on the frontline of the opposition to apartheid while others were imprisoned or exiled.

Harshness with which she has been described in death has forced her supporters to raise their voices in praise to tilt the narrative in the other direction, instead of inspiring sober reflection on the choices Madikizela-Mandela made—and what they mean for South Africa now.

*”When you strike a woman, you strike a rock.”

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