Who’s in charge here, anyway?
While President Nelson Mandela heads the government, Winnie Mandela, the president’s estranged wife, appears to be calling the shots in the latest twists to her never-ending saga.
Winnie Mandela, a deputy minister in her husband’s Cabinet, returned from an unauthorized trip abroad last week to find police had raided her house and offices as part of a bribery investigation.
Mandela had directed his deputy, Thabo Mbeki, to meet with her. Many news organizations, citing unnamed government sources, reported she would be fired within hours.
A week later, she still holds her job and has avoided the meeting. Her legal challenge has prevented police from studying material seized from her property and may get the search warrants declared illegal.
Once again, Winnie Mandela has staved off, temporarily, apparent political and personal ruin.Memo: Allies in the African National Congress women’s and youth leagues have supported her, along with Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu.Her brazen manner - refusing to meet with Mbeki, calling the police raids a conspiracy to vilify her - has critics crying for tough government action.
“Thus far she has won every round as a result of the hesitation of the ANC leadership to act against her,” said David Malatsi, a member of the Senate from the white-led National Party. “If the ANC continues to handle the controversy around Mrs. Mandela in such a spineless manner, any rules of discipline which the government imposes are worthless.”
Winnie Mandela presents a complex problem for her husband. The couple separated in 1992, two years after Mandela was freed from 27 years in prison. The separation followed her conviction on a kidnapping charge relating to the beatings of four men in her home. She was also accused of misusing ANC money.
Mandela has never publicly criticized his wife, only saying she suffered immensely during years of being detained, banned and harassed by the white government while he was in prison. But he reportedly was ready to fire her last month after she accused his government of ignoring the masses who fought apartheid and put it in power.
Mbeki reportedly saved her job by convincing Mandela to accept her public apology, drafted by Mbeki and others after Mandela rejected an original effort from his wife. Shortly after that, trouble brewed anew when she traveled to Burkina Faso after Mandela told her not to go.
Her defiance prompted Mandela to ask Mbeki to draft a report on the matter and increased speculation she would be fired when she returned. Then came the police raids.
She’s accused of taking bribes and peddling her influence for personal gain, but no charges have been filed.