Nelson Mandela

Winnie must go, for good

PUBLISHED : Friday, 14 April, 1995, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 14 April, 1995, 12:00am

PRESIDENT Nelson Mandela has a lot of experience of prison, but only a little of government. His goodness and integrity inspire millions of people in South Africa and around the globe but they make him vulnerable to the cynicism of some of the politicians who surround him: politicians such as Winnie Mandela.

Mrs Mandela has for years exploited and embarrassed her husband in order to strengthen her own position. Over the past year, she has shown a willingness to do the same for her country, drawing strength from the suffering of township youths but sullying the international image of South Africa when the country desperately needs to attract international investment.

Mr Mandela was right to dismiss his estranged wife from her post as deputy minister for arts, culture, science and technology: she had publicly criticised the Government of which she was a part and had defied the president. Mr Mandela should have fired her sooner, but his hesitation was understandable in view of the need for national unity - and of the damage Mrs Mandela might seek to cause.

Her actions over the past few days show the depth of her cynicism and the height of her ambition. Her lawyers have used the country's interim constitution to win a reprieve from her dismissal that she knows will be temporary and she has allowed herself to be allied with her political enemy, Zulu leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi, to denigrate South Africa.

Mr Mandela was wrong not to follow the letter of the constitution in dismissing Mrs Mandela but his failure more procedural than political. It may have resulted from poor advice offered by inexperienced officials rather than from ill intent. Mr Mandela is now taking steps to follow the right procedure and this should confirm his Government's commitment to the rule of law, in contrast to the practice of his National Party predecessors.

While Mrs Mandela has succeeded in making her husband appear inept and indecisive, the damage to her reputation is much greater. She has accepted the support of a political leader who is loathed by African National Congress supporters and, more particularly, her own supporters in the townships. She has attacked the president who led her country to liberation and she has let down her country. She must go - and for good.