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Diasporas, Cultures of Mobilities, ‘Race’ 1

Judith Misrahi-Barak
Claudine Raynaud

Diasporic Discontinuities

Embracing Chaos: Winnie Mandela and the South African Diaspora

Johan.U. Jacobs


Njabulo Ndebele’s novel The Cry of Winnie Mandela (2003) concludes with the complex, chaotic figure of Winnie Mandela demanding that all South Africans recognise themselves in her. This paper argues that for approaching the colonial, apartheid and postapartheid history of South Africa, diaspora provides a more useful lens than simply that of a liberatory black nationalism rising in opposition against an oppressive white nationalism. In a frame narrative, Ndebele develops with reference to the classical figure of Penelope, a thesis about the black South African woman: ’Departure, waiting, and return: they define her experience of the past, present and future. They frame her life at the centre of a great South African story not yet told’. The lives of African women in South Africa have been overdetermined by their husbands’ migrant lives, and Ndebele’s novel tells the stories of four unknown women, and that of South Africa’s most famous woman, Winnie Mandela, who waited. Beginning with the migration to the mines of Johannesburg and Kimberley, Ndebele identifies four waves of diasporic dispersion in twentieth-century South Africa. The large-scale external and internal displacement of black South Africans under colonialism and apartheid and the concomitant dream of eventual homecoming may be seen in terms of the more conventional ’old’ diasporic framework, whereas Ndebele’s four case studies in The Cry of Winnie Mandela may offer versions of ’new’ diasporic thinking. However, the stories of each of the four South African descendents of Penelope, all seen in relation to the combination of power and energy, and banality and depravity that characterises the figure of Winnie Mandela, point to a more useful understanding of diasporic migrant flows in South Africa in terms of chaos complexity theory.

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1In Njabulo Ndebele’s novel, The Cry of Winnie Mandela (2003), one of the narrators, Marara Joyce Baloyi, describes incomprehensible contradictions in the behavior of her fellow countrymen and women after the transition to democracy in South Africa in 1994:

South Africans have an intriguing capacity to be disarmingly kind and hospitable at the same time as being capable of the most horrifying brutality and cruelty. So much killing went on after Nelson [Mandela] returned home. Home? We saw strange armies of black men terrorizing townships, hacking children’s heads with machetes. We abandoned patients to their deaths in hospitals because we were on strike; we held hostage people doing their work; trashed university campuses; blocked highways; burned to death old women we accused of being witches; abused our children and raped our women; engaged in brutal taxi wars [....] All this while we celebrated the advent of democracy, human rights, and victories in sport; abolished the death sentence; were working on the best constitution in the world; declared free medical care for pregnant women, and continued to receive and welcome guests into our houses with legendary hospitality and generosity. (Ndebele 2003: 70)

2How, then, should one try to understand the paradoxical character of a newly liberated nation, with an exemplary constitution and a model Bill of Rights, that is apparently so divided and (self)- destructive? This essay will argue that certain aspects of contemporary diaspora theory may provide a useful way of interpreting the conflictual cultural dynamics presented by Ndebele in The Cry of Winnie Mandela, as well as an insight into the novel’s depiction of a national South African identity.

3Ndebele’s text approaches its subject through a number of narrative frames, each identifying an aspect of dislocation or migration in the context of South Africa. A paratextual frame is provided by Ndebele’s dedication of his novel to the figure of Sara Baartman, ’who endured the horrors of European eyes, was desecrated beyond her death, and finally returned home, to rest (’Dedication’, n.p.). The historical Khoisan woman, Saartjie Baartman (as she was originally and more commonly called), ’is South Africa’s most famous and revered national icon of the colonial era’ (Holmes 2007: xiv). She was born in the Gamtoos River Valley in the Eastern Cape in 1789, and taken in 1810 by a British military surgeon, Alexander Dunlop, and his free black servant, Hendrik Cesars, first to England and later to France where she was exhibited as the ’Hottentot Venus’. With her steatopygy and extended vaginal labia, she entered the popular culture of the time as an object of exotic curiosity and erotic fetishism. When she died in Paris in 1815, her body was dissected, a plastercast made of it, and her brain and genitals preserved in alcohol in bell-jars. These, together with her skeleton, were later placed on public display in the Museum of Natural History in Paris where they were stored for over a century. Her remains were eventually repatriated to South Africa on 6 May 2002, and buried in her native soil on a hill outside Hankey in the Eastern Cape on 9 August 2002. Whether Saartjie Baartman should technically be regarded as an exile in Europe or as a working immigrant is perhaps less important than the fact that for Ndebele she obviously symbolises African diasporic experience. As an emblem of (South) African dislocation, relocation and belated homecoming, she features as the cover illustration of the first edition of his novel (2003), which is a photograph of Willie Bester’s modern sculpture of Saartjie Baartman, on display at the University of Cape Town Library.

4Contained within the frame of Baartman’s emblematic story, the narrative of The Cry of Winnie Mandela begins with a second frame, ’Penelope’s Descendants’, in which Ndebele explains his intention to examine the migrant subject by focusing not on the figure of the wanderer abroad, but rather on the effect of his wanderings on the wife who remained behind at home, and on her ’inescapable condition of living in the zone of absence without duration’ (6). Ndebele develops, with reference to the classical figure of Homer’s Penelope, a thesis about the black South African woman: ’Departure, waiting, and return: they define her experience of the past, present and future. They frame her life at the centre of a great South African story not yet told’ (1; original italics). The novel tells ’the stories of four unknown women, and that of South Africa’s most famous woman, who waited’-Winnie Mandela. The story of Penelope’s exemplary fidelity despite being beset by insistent suitors, and her untenable social position which, Ndebele points out, leads to her becoming ’a thing-person without agency’ (4) in ’a damning condition of depersonalisation’, has special resonance in South Africa where migration and forced displacement have so overwhelmingly shaped the history of black people. Ndebele says that the lives of African women in this country have been overdetermined by the impact of their husbands’ migrant lives:

For over a century, millions of (Penelope’s) South African descendants have unremittingly been put to the test by powerful social forces that caused their men to wander away from home for prolonged periods of time. Their fate is the product of one of the most momentous social transformations in world history. Modernism, in its ever-expanding global manifestations, took its own form in South Africa. It took the form of massive male labour migrations to the mines and factories of South Africa. In the process, an entire subcontinent witnessed massive human movement that still continues to this day. (4-5)

5Within this thesis about Penelope and her South African descendants, Ndebele identifies, in a further narrative frame, four main historical waves of migration that have collectively made up what I would argue may be seen as the diasporic dispersion of African men in and from the Southern Africa region for over a century. The first of these was when men ’from all parts of Southern Africa’ (5), forced off their land by colonial laws, ’left on voyages of discovery’ to ’Kimberley (the Diamond City) and Johannesburg (the Golden City)’ to seek work on the mines. ’Although these were voyages of discovery prompted by impersonal forces of world history’, Ndebele says, they assumed a personal dimension as each of the travellers developed their own story to tell. It was a story of how the internal landscape expanded as they undertook long journeys over valleys, rivers, and mountains. Many returned, richer for the experience of having left. Preferring not to depart again, some settled down to the indulgence of memory. Many never returned home, leaving behind waiting women. Some women followed their men, others simply waited (5).

6These migrant mineworkers, especially from neighbouring countries whose economies were heavily dependent on the earnings of their nationals on the South African mines, were the forerunners of the large present-day Basotho, Mozambican and Malawian diasporic communities in South Africa. A second wave, of intra-national migration, came with the growth of the professions as the South African economy expanded, and an ’army of teachers, civil servants, priests, and salesmen (... were) deployed from one post to another across the land’. A third wave of international migration took place after 1960, following the banning of major political organisations by the apartheid government, when women once again watched their men disappear as this time they went abroad to join the liberation movements and become part of the South Africa in exile. And the fourth wave was ’another form of exile... the internal exile of detention without trial and long sentences in jail for political resistance; or for acts of criminality generated or exacerbated by the many conditions of oppression’ (5). It was not until 1990, when the liberation movements were unbanned and political prisoners were freed, that these two South Africas in exile could be reunited.

7Ndebele presents four fictional case studies to bear out his thesis about black women as the subjects of dislocation in Southern Africa. Penelope’s first descendant is Mannete Mofolo, whose husband Lejone is driven by drought to leave his home in the Lesotho highlands to seek work on the mines around Johannesburg, where, as he becomes increasingly urbanised, like so many other African men, he is eventually completely estranged from her and their five children, sets up an alternative home in Benoni with a woman from the Northern Transvaal, and starts another family. Penelope’s second descendant, Delisiwe Dulcie S’khosana, a teacher and mother of two, devotedly supports her husband, who has gone to Scotland on a scholarship to study to become a doctor, for fourteen years. When he makes his belated return to his home in the East Rand township and finds that she has a four-year-old child, he divorces her, marries a nurse, settles down to a successful medical career and moves with his new wife into a formerly white suburb. Penelope’s third descendant, Mamello (Patience) Molete marries her childhood sweetheart shortly after graduating, only to have him disappear unannounced into political exile abroad after five years. Ten years later she reads in the newspapers about his arrest while on a military incursion back into South Africa and his subsequent sentence to fifteen years imprisonment; and years later she again has to read in the newspapers about his release from Robben Island. When he divorces her and marries a white, former comrade, joining the ranks of the new political elite, this leads to Mamello suffering a series of nervous breakdowns. And when the philandering traveling salesman husband of Penelope’s fourth descendant, Marara Joyce Baloyi, finally loses his job and is penniless, she nevertheless does not throw him out, and in the end when he dies she provides him with a decent burial in an expensive casket.

8The question arises whether Ndebele’s exposition of these successive waves of migration into and from South Africa from the latter half of the nineteenth century can be regarded as Southern African instances of a larger African diaspora. Do the stories of these four women in Ndebele’s novel merit being considered through the lens of diaspora? Although their existence is constrained by what I would argue is the diasporic pattern of their husbands’ experiences, their own lives are spent waiting at home for their migrant husbands’ return.

9Jana Evans Braziel and Anita Mannur caution against ’the uncritical, unreflexive application of the term “diaspora” to any and all contexts of global displacement and movement’ (2003: 3). Ato Quayson also reminds us that ’not all dispersals amount to diasporas’ (2007: 581; see also Tölölyan 1996, 2007), and that social scientists have had to devise various, different ways of talking about the consequences of globalisation, transnationalism and cultural hybridity. The typology developed by Robin Cohen (1997) of the key characteristics of diasporas has nevertheless remained an important point of reference for subsequent theorists:

(1) dispersal from an original homeland, often traumatically; (2) alternatively, the expansion from a homeland in search of work, in pursuit of trade or to further colonial ambitions; (3) a collective memory and myth about the homeland; (4) an idealization of the supposed ancestral home; (5) a return movement; (6) a strong ethnic group consciousness sustained over a long time; (7) a troubled relationship with host societies; (8) a sense of solidarity with co-ethnic members in other countries; and (9) the possibility of a distinctive, creative, enriching life in tolerant host societies. (1997: 180)

10Monika Fludernik opens Cohen’s second criterion up into three further categories: the ’colonial diaspora’, and the ’old and new diasporas’ (421-422). For Fludernik the really ’new’ diaspora consists of free labour movements across the globe, a type of diaspora ’motivated by professional considerations’ and now including also ’cultural and political elites’ (xii-xiii). Jana Evans Braziel suggests a taxonomy of distinct groups of people whose movement from ’a native country across national or state boundaries into a new receiving (or “host”) country’ (Braziel 2008: 27) qualifies them for inclusion in present-day diasporas: colonial settlers; transnational corporate expatriates; students; postcolonial émigrés; refugees; political asylum seekers; detainees; internally displaced persons; economic migrants; and undocumented workers (’illegal aliens’) (see 27-33).

11To return to Ndebele’s four introductory narratives in The Cry of Winnie Mandela. It would not be difficult to classify the large-scale migrations of workers from Lesotho, Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe in the twentieth century to the mines of South Africa as belonging to what Cohen calls labour diasporas. Similarly, the mass exodus of political activists from South Africa during the 1960s and 1970s, who had little choice other than to flee the country and together form South African liberation organisations abroad with the collective dream of one day returning home to freedom, would match most of the criteria in Cohen’s typology. Furthermore, the generations of blacks who have left South Africa to improve their professional qualifications, especially in the United Kingdom and the United States, would fit into Fludernik’s notion of ’new diasporas’ or Braziel’s understanding of present-day diasporas. As for the thousands of political detainees, banished people and prisoners of the apartheid government in South Africa, internal exile has become the received term for their shared experience.

12Importantly, what all these displaced subjects share is what Aisha Khan calls a ’diasporic consciousness’ (142), a sensibility ’that both marks the very act of uprooting as shaping their sense of self and that memorializes displacement in everyday discourse and practice’ (161). The particular interest of a diasporic consciousness for the literary scholar lies in the ways in which the different stories of dislocation and relocation are narrativized in the individual and group memory, and a diasporic personhood and cultural identity are shaped. Stuart Hall’s (1990) view of diasporic identity in terms of internal division, motility and hybridity rather than fixed essence is echoed by Paul Gilroy’s (1993) thesis that cultural doubleness and intermixture are the legacies of the African diaspora. Or, as more recently formulated by Geneviève Fabre and Klaus Benesch in their critical reassessment of the concept of an African diaspora: ’diaspora is less a condition or a state than a search for identity that is constantly contested, re-imagined, and re-invented’ (xiv).

13The question of whether an immigrant African community in another African country can technically be regarded as forming part of the African diaspora is answered in part at least by Michael A. Gomez, who defines his subject as ’people of African descent who found (and find) themselves living either outside of the African continent or in parts of Africa that were territorially quite distant from their lands of birth’ (1). The state of being ’out of Africa’ can also be experienced elsewhere in Africa. The further question of whether the African diaspora can or should be spoken of as a unified experience, considering ’the complex pattern of communities and cultures with differing local and regional histories’ (2), Gomez says, has no easy answer. There can be no essentialist model of the African diaspora, and his definition of the term allows for a vast range of different experiences: it ’consists of the connections of people of African descent around the world, who are linked as much by their common experiences as their genetic makeup, if not more so’ (2). Brent Hayes Edwards similarly argues that diaspora points to internal as well as external differences within and among transnational black groupings; ’in appropriating a term so closely associated with Jewish thought’, he says, ’we are forced to think not in terms of some closed or autonomous system of African dispersal but explicitly in terms of a complex past of forced migrations and racialization-what Earl Lewis [1995] has called a history of “overlapping diasporas”’ (Edwards 2001: 64). Although the truth remains, as Fabre and Benesch state, that whether real or imagined, ’Africa is the matrix of the African diaspora, the lost homeland and center’ (xv), they remind us that ’ (t) hough still a land of origin, Africa has shifted conceptually: it has finally become an ambiguous place, a conflictridden continent’ (xvi). Because of the differences among the various experiences of dispersal, they point out that ’ (t) he idea of an African diaspora was thus gradually replaced by that of multiple diasporas, unified solely through their lost center and mythic homeland, Africa’ (xvii). To return again to Ndebele’s novel: it may be more useful to view the multiple migrations described in the stories of Penelope’s first three descendants as overlapping diasporas in the history of black South Africa, and to understand the protagonists’ sensibilities as representing different aspects of a South African diasporic consciousness.

14What Ndebele’s protagonists all share is a sense of profound turmoil. ’Mannete Mofolo’s fruitless journey from Lesotho to Johannesburg to search for her husband brings her to the point where, Ndebele says, ’she, her husband, and her children add the weight of their experience to the enormous social tensions that make our society potentially explosive’ (2). The ’tense endlessness’ (14) of Delisiwe Dulcie S’khosana’s fourteen-year wait for her husband to return from Scotland brings her to the point where, after he has been absent for ten years, she feels: ’If only she could burst! Explode! ’ (17)-and it all culminates in the rage of her husband’s rejection of her when he eventually returns and finds the child that is not his. Mamello Molete’s nervous breakdowns after being abandoned by her husband for a new, white wife lead her to confront her own insanity, which, she says,

is the intensity of consciousness of one’s own mental and emotional anguish. It goes with an equally intense knowledge of one’s incapacity to do anything about it. It is living in a never-ending cycle of questions without answers. It is living with the knowledge of one’s own confusion and one’s own inability to escape from it. (27)

15And for Marara Joyce Baloyi, her own turmoil comes from having to watch her errant husband deteriorate, ’saturated with corruption’ (30). This motif of sustained disturbance or chaos in the stories of each of the four descendants of Penelope points to a still newer way of understanding diasporic migrant flows-in terms of chaos theory.

16Minoli Salgado, following cultural critics such as N. Katherine Hayles (1991), Nikos Papastergiadis (2000), Antonio Benítez-Rojo (1992) and Arjun Appadurai (1996), argues that ’the analysis of diasporic migrant flows has until recently been dominated by a monologic discourse of spatial fixity and temporal and geographic linearity’ (Salgado 2003: 183); however, ’the increasingly complex flows of migrant movement demand a corresponding paradigm shift from the linear to the multidirectional’ (183-4). Like Papastergiadis, Benítez-Rojo and Appadurai, Salgado turns to ’the structural and ideological paradigms of chaotics’ (184) in order to understand modern migration and formulate an appropriate critical language for the cultural conditions it creates. He examines ’the imaginative and structural affinities between the emergent sciences of chaos complexity theory and the theoretical and literary paradigms of the diasporic experience’ (184), and argues that ’the fundamental principle of chaos, that of generative disorder, lies at the unstable core of the diasporic experience and has a variety of repercussions in the texts of postcolonial writers’ (184-185). The principles of chaotics, he maintains, are ’systematically embedded’ within the diasporic experience and are ’internal to the logic of the diasporic imagination’ (185).

17At the centre of Ndebele’s fictional construct in the Cry of Winnie Mandela is the emblematic figure of Winnie Mandela herself, the ultimate South African waiting woman. By further framing her by means of an elaborate dialogic engagement with the four fictional descendants of Penelope in an ibandla abafazi, or African women’s social gathering, Ndebele offers a way of understanding this famous woman who defines herself in the narrative not in terms of any kind of coherence, but in terms of fundamental contradiction. The historical Winnie Mandela, in Part of My Soul, an early autobiography before Nelson Mandela’s release from prison, describes herself paradoxically as ’the most unmarried married woman’ (85). Through Nelson Mandela she was, from the very beginning, wed involuntarily to the struggle for liberation. She had, she says, long ceased to exist as an individual: ’My private self doesn’t exist. Whatever they do to me, they do to the people in this country. I am and will always be only a political barometer’ (26). In her introduction to Winnie Mandela’s autobiography, the editor Anne Benjamin says: ’It was this tension between contradictions within her which fascinated me immediately: this closeness of laughter and sorrow, the obvious love of beauty, even though she had been through all the prison routine of interrogation and torture and had long given up all claims to a life of personal happiness’ (13). Under the heading, ’Harrassed, Banned, Detained’, the autobiography includes a chronicle of the charges brought against Winnie Mandela and the court cases by means of which the apartheid government hounded her for nearly three decades while Mandela was imprisoned, destroying any normal sense of coherence in her life. The chronicle deserves to be considered for the sense it provides of an existence that came to be defined in terms of extreme disruption under repeated and sustained onslaught by an illegitimate state:


Arrested for participation in the women’s demonstration in Johannesburg against the issuing of passes to women. Imprisoned for two weeks.


Banned for two years under the Suppression of Communism Act.
Restricted to Johannesburg.


Arrested for attending a gathering; found not guilty and acquitted.


A more stringent banning order for five years and restriction to
Orlando township. As a result she lost her job with the Child Welfare Society.


Additional restrictions imposed, prohibiting her from ’preparing, compiling, publishing, printing or transmitting any document, book, pamphlet, record, poster, photograph’, etc. etc. Accused of violating regulations for visit to Robben Island-instead of going by train she had gone by plane to get there before her permit expired.


Accused of resisting arrest; during a scuffle a policeman broke his neck (it was not fatal); she was found not guilty and was acquitted.


Accused of violating her banning order: failed to give her name and address to the Security Police in Cape Town. Sentence: twelve months’ imprisonment suspended for three years; she had spent four days in prison.


Detained (with twenty-one others) under the Suppression of Communism Act and accused of having promoted the aims of the banned ANC. As a result she lost her job. Charges withdrawn in
February 1970.


Immediately re-detained in solitary confinement under Section 6 of the Terrorism Act with virtually the same charges; acquitted in
September 1970. Two weeks unbanned.


Banning order renewed for five years, plus house arrest each night and during weekends-visitors forbidden.


Accused of violating her banning order by receiving visitors-five relatives (two of them children) who called at her house. Sentence: six months’ imprisonment suspended for three years, this was set aside on appeal.


Accused of violating her banning order: communication with a banned person in her house (Peter Magubane). Sentence: twelve months’ imprisonment suspended for three years. Conviction and sentence were set aside on appeal.


Accused of violating her banning order: lunch with her children in a Combi in the presence of a banned person (Peter Magubane).
Sentence: twelve months’ imprisonment suspended for three years.


On appeal in October 1974 sentence was reduced to six months, which she served in Kroonstad Prison.


Third banning order expired; ten months’ ’freedom’ (after thirteen years of banning).


Detained on 12 August under Section 6 of the Internal Security Act after the Soweto uprising; imprisoned in the ’Fort’ in Johannesburg until December 1976.


Banning order renewed for five years.


Banished to Brandfort in the Orange Free State on 17 May.


Countless arrests in Brandfort because of violations of her banning order; almost daily, sometimes twice daily. She refuses to keep ’such a despicable statistic’.


Court case on alleged incitement of the Soweto uprising; acquitted and awarded compensation for defamation.


Accused of assaulting a policeman while in Johannesburg; found not guilty and acquitted.


Accused of violating her banning order by having a friend of the family as a lodger in her house in Brandfort; case postponed.


Banning order renewed for another five years.


Numerous charges in connection with violations of her banning order, but few were brought to court.

18(Mandela 1985: 106-108)

19Winnie Mandela’s most recent biographer, Anné Marie Du Preez Bezdrob, also turns to paradox in order to analyse the enigma of Nelson Mandela’s wife. Bezdrob suggests that in order to cope with the decades of harassment and victimisation by the state, Winnie Mandela developed two personalities, the public one becoming ever more brilliant and confident, the private one growing ’increasingly anxious and lonely’ (112). The psychological syndrome of complex post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), Bezdrob says, may provide some insight into Winnie Mandela’s increasingly erratic behaviour and the paradoxical combination of regality and gangsterism in her personality when she returned to Johannesburg after her long banishment to Brandfort. Bezdrob points out that from 1986, Winnie Mandela’s world became increasingly contrasted to that of Nelson Mandela: whereas he was ’the statesman-in-the-making’ (221), she was overtly ’revolutionary, angry, defiant, and controversial’. The ’Mother of the Nation’ was afterwards to be convicted of being an accessory to the killing of children: in 1991 she was sentenced to five years in prison on four charges of kidnapping and being an accessory to assault on the child activist Stompie Sepei, who was murdered by members of her notorious bodyguard ’Football Team’. In 1993 she was convicted by a Pretoria magistrate on a further 43 counts of fraud and 25 counts of theft. The victim of police violation for decades, she was later to be indicted before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission by the victims of her own violence.

20The chaotic model of diaspora reveals how, in his work of fiction, Ndebele perhaps comes closest to providing a clue to the incongruous combination of power and energy, and banality and depravity that characterises Winnie Mandela. Chaos, Salgado says, ’is a form of generative disorder that has structural correspondences with the diasporic condition of flow, flux and entropic disintegration, encoded with the power for generative complexity’ (186). Just as entropic disorder creates new kinds of order, jumping to a new level of order and contributing to ever-increasing complexity, so diasporas engage in ever more complex ways with existing cultural formations, interrupting, unsettling and transforming them (see Salgado 186). Winnie Mandela’s life, Delisiwe Dulcie S’khosana says, was ’consigned to pure drama’ (Ndebele 2003: 43), and, with reference to a scandalously publicized letter from Winnie to one of her lovers after Mandela’s release, she tries to understand how Winnie could reconcile ’fucking [....] sex breaking out of all social constraint’ (46) and the intimate secrets deep inside of her with the public clamour in her life.

21Diasporic trajectories, like chaotic systems, Salgado claims, are nonlinear; they are not simply unidirectional from home country to host country but are in reality multidirectional, consist of endless motion, and ’are difficult to trace to a stable originary point’ (187) or, for that matter, to any static endpoint. Each bifurcation point in a chaotic system opens multidirectional and labyrinthine pathways to multiple possibilities. Mamello Molete analyses the elements of Winnie’s rhetoric and what she calls her ’grammar of defiance’ (Ndebele 2003: 60), and traces the various trajectories of her life from her rural girlhood in the Eastern Cape to her work as social worker in Johannesburg, and from the initial expectations of glamour and political power as Nelson Mandela’s beautiful young wife, via the complexities of countless secret meetings and rallies, ’charges, courtroom dramas, interrogation and torture, imprisonments, detentions, restrictions, bannings, banishment and the continued absence of [her] husband’ (60), to her mastery of political posture and public image. Molete suggests to Winnie that, like the skeptical shaman Que-salid who saw through the trickery of shamanism yet nevertheless exploited his mastery of it, Winnie too was unable to transcend her own contradictions, and came to believe in them.

22Like a chaotic system, the diasporic trajectory is irreversible: it is unforeseen and unpredictable, uncontrollable and unstoppable, and all-pervasive. There is no going back. Salgado argues that the spatial and temporal dislocation of diaspora results in what he calls ’a bifurcated perspective’ (188) which ’results in irreversible ontological instability for the migrant, for whom home (the perceived point of origin) becomes displaced into a condition of possibility located in the future, creating a site of endlessly deferred desire’ (188). In her address to Winnie Mandela, Marara Joyce Baloyi contributes a discourse on the theme of home and dislocation in South Africa. The essential South African experience, she says, is the ’shared experience of homelessness’ (Ndebele 2003: 68), and she asks, with reference to the millions of victims of forced removals under apartheid: ’Is a country of so much dislocation a home?’ Rootlessness, as the result of internal displacement as with diasporic dislocation, is the condition of black South African life: ’There must be relatively few South Africans who can still point to a home that they associate with rootedness’ (69). The failure of the Mandela marriage, Baloyi suggests, made South Africans vulnerable again at precisely the long dreamt of moment of diasporic homecoming. She-and through her, her author-elaborates on all the contradictions in the South African national character (that this essay began with), and, in trying to find a reason for this fundamentally conflictual South African identity, Ndebele rhetorically asks through Baloyi:

Has this got anything to do with the dislocating traumas of ’interrupted experiences’? How has the growth of the imagination or the nurturing of new values been affected by the dramatic oscillation of individuals and communities between comfort and discomfort, between home and homelessness, home and exile, between riches and poverty, love and hate, hope and despair, knowledge and ignorance, progress and regression, fame and ignominy, heroism and roguery, honour and dishonour, marriage and divorce, sophistication and crudeness, life and death, returns and departures? Have dislocation and contradiction become part of the structures of thinking and feeling that may define our character? (70-71)

23That dislocation and contradiction characterise contemporary black South African identity is symbolised by the figure of the fictional Winnie Mandela, who explains to her four female interlocutors the informing principle of her life. The systematic disruption of the order of her life by the security police over the years, and of the order of her mind by her torturer during her detention, led to what she calls her ’law of resistance’ (89): to ’embrace disruption, and then rage against order instead of longing for it. Winnie Mandela, she says, ’became the embodiment of disruption’ (90). Therefore, it was unthinkable for her to confess to her wrongdoings before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and ask her victims for forgiveness, as the notion of reconciliation would have been a negation of her very being. The fictional monologue in which she claims to be the personification of the country with all its paradoxes, that were described at the beginning of this essay, deserves to be quoted in full, for its explanation of a problematic national homecoming:

There is one thing I will not do. It is my only defence of the future. I will not be an instrument for validating the politics of reconciliation. For me, reconciliation demands my annihilation. No. You, all of you, have to reconcile not with me, but with the meaning of me. For my meaning is the endless human search for the right thing to do. I am your pleasure and your pain, your beauty and your ugliness. Your solution and your mistake. Your hell and your heaven. I am your squatter shack and your million rand mansion. I am all of you who maim and rape. I am all of you who give love and succor. I am your pride and your shame. Your honour and humiliation. The journey to your future goes through the dot of loving me, despite myself, on the world map that lays out journeys towards all kinds of human fulfillment. Maybe you and I are the future of a new world on that journey. You and I, located in that delicate point of convergence between dream and desolation, are fellow travellers in history, no longer its orphans. All that has gone before and all that is yet to come are the burdens and joys of our responsibility. Give me the trust to accept it. You and I, in that country known by a cardinal point. A country known as a direction, but hope, as well, a destination. As the world carries us, so do we carry it too. We are here now, to stay. At home. (113)

24In the fictional Winnie Mandela’s rhetorical justification of her refusal to confess her crimes and in her affirmation instead of her complex, chaotic self, Ndebele suggests that all the contradictions in the person of the historical Winnie Mandela might symbolise the chaos of diasporic experience that needs both to be acknowledged and embraced within a larger South African identity at this time in our history.


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