"Life with him was always a life without him" - Winnie Mandela


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   They were not the kind of couple that expressed their love publicly, but Winnie and Nelson did have their own way of expressing love for one another. Winnie first laid eyes on her future husband in the beginning of 1957 while he was speaking for a black South African man in Johannesburg. She then saw him a second time while she was with her friends, Oliver and Adelaide. They had all forgotten their money and needed to pay for lunch.  Her friend Oliver said "Tell him to pay" directing his words towards Mandela, and Mandela  did pay. Oliver introduced Winnie and soon after Nelson called and invited her on a lunch date. She felt petrified due to his fame and observed while on the date that Nelson never had a minute to spare before someone walked up to him with a complaint, a question or a plea. While dating Nelson, Winnie realized that there would never be any alone time for them while in the eyes of the public. What she didn't realize at that time was that Mandela would soon enough change her whole world by becoming both her husband and the anti-apartheid movement's main leader .


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    Nelson introduced the idea of marriage in a way Winnie could never have dreamt of. "Nelson just pulled up on the side of the road and said, 'You know, there is a woman, a dressmaker, you must go see her, she is going to make your wedding gown. How many bridesmaids would you like to have?". This was how Winnie was told she was getting married. In June, 1958, Nelson was allowed four days off from the Treason Trial to marry Winnie. He arranged for them to be married in Pondoland with her family, and then they also married again with Nelson's family. Since the time was limited they weren't able to have a traditional wedding for either ceremony. Winnie gave birth to two babies named Zenani (1959), and Zindzi (1960), while she was married to Nelson. Even after the birth of their children, Winnie and Nelson were still not behaving like a typical family. Nelson was always working on the Treason Trial and Winnie was raising the girls and involved in her own activism. Throughout the year of 1961, Winnie worked at the Child Welfare office doing field work, while Nelson hid from authorities. When Nelson was captured in August, 1962, she was in disbelief and knew her struggle for a family life had been defeated. 


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   Though she knew life would be difficult with or without Nelson, she ocuppied herself with various organizations and did a good job of maintaining her family. Being away from Nelson caused much suffering and hardship, but Winnie didn't give up her share of the fight against oppression. She soon became a public figure, and was very busy with her own work in different organizations like the ANC and the ANCWL. When Nelson was released from Robben Island in 1990, Winnie was right beside him as he left the jail. Unfortunately, their life together never quite happened even after Nelson was released. They were separated by 1992, and many people seem to feel it was their limited time spent together and their efforts as activists that drove them away from one another. Nelson wanted to divorce Winnie as he felt she had been unfaithful. They were divorced in March 1996. After the divorce Winnie said herself that it would have ended anyway, one way or another. In my view, political life was the beginning of their marriage and sadly also ended their marriage.