In memoriam: Winnie Mandela

I note with no joy, but considerable relief, that Winnie Mandela has died.

I wish hell on no man, or woman for that matter.  It’s a fearful thing to consider eternity without God . . . but if anyone deserved it, from an earthly perspective, it would be hard not to include Winnie Mandela among them.  Her reputation in Soweto during the worst of the unrest in the 1980’s and early 1990’s was absolutely sickening.  People were terrified of running afoul of her, and the young thugs who made up her “Mandela United Football Club” were nothing more than a political-criminal gang in (very thin) disguise.  I ran into them on a couple of memorable occasions.  On one of them, I got away by the skin of my teeth, leaving a couple of the “footballers” in rather worse condition.  Sucked to be them, I guess.

I’ve no idea how many people were murdered, raped or brutalized on the orders of Winnie Mandela (or, for that many, how many suffered at her hands personally).  I found it entirely logical that Nelson Mandela divorced her as soon as he could after his release from prison.  Her attitudes and actions threatened to destroy his attempts at nation-building, and damn nearly succeeded in doing so.

On the other hand, I’m forced to concede that the way she was treated by the apartheid regime would have tried the patience of a saint, let alone a political activist.  Perhaps, if I’d been treated that way, maybe my conscience and my soul would have become hardened, too?  I’ll never know . . . and for that, I most sincerely thank God.  Tragically, the hard shell she grew around her translated to utter impatience with and disdain for anyone who would not cooperate with her, and her revolutionary ideals, to the fullest possible extent.  You were for her, or against her – and if the latter, your safety could not be guaranteed.  In Soweto, in the 1980’s, that’s the way it was.  I know.  I was there.

I shall shed no tears for Winnie Mandela:  but I shall, even if reluctantly, pray for her soul.  She stands now before the Judge whom we must all face one day.  As I hope for mercy for my own sins, I shall pray for His mercy for hers, in obedience to the Golden Rule.



  1. A small quibble with you exposition. God is not absent anywhere we are. Psalm 139: "You hem me in, behind and before,
    and lay your hand upon me…where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there…"

    Hell or anywhere else does not exclude the presence of God. Eternal torment includes His Presence with a constant and inexorable stare exacting everlasting justice for insult to His infinite righteousness. God does not so much save us from hell as He does ave us from Himself: Luke 12:5 "But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him!"

  2. Oh, hell, I disagree. Just because your patience is tried doesn't give you the right to go full evil. Which, even reading the moderate reports of her activities, show that she did indeed go 'full evil.' Did she ever repent her actions later? Did she ever feel sorrow for the pain and deaths of 'her own people' (other blacks) that she terrorized? Was there ever any compassion in her heart? If so, then she would be saved by God. But without sorrow, compassion, repentance, there is no saving.

    Have I ever met real evil may you ask? Yes. I have. My father-in-law qualifies still, even though he is thankfully dead. Evil to the core. Enjoyed causing the physical pain of others. Enjoyed torturing animals and humans, some to death. And he surrounded himself and covered himself with the mantle of Christianity through his church. But he never was a Christian. Nope. Even his fear of Hell itself as he was dying was a sham. Any fears he had in his soul was where his place in Hell was going to be, not for any real repentance of all the evil he perpetrated.

    One of the godliest men I ever met was an ex Nazi, a member of the SS, in fact, and a camp guard while recovering from wounds. But he, though he participated in evil, committed evil acts, was part of an evil empire, finally repented and accepted what he did, and strove to undo the damage he caused by acts and allowance. Was he a 'true' Christian? No, as he felt too dirty to ever 'belong.' Yet his charity and selflessness and openness would put most 'true' Christians to shame. He truly lived a socialistic life, donating most of his money and time to the community he lived in. He died leaving behind a better place than he was born into.

    Did Winnie? She died in a better world despite her actions. Some will say, with some correctness, that the world is a better place without her.

    May God have mercy on her soul, and show more mercy than she showed many of her fellow man.

  3. I won't speak ill of the dead, but I will note that, given how she seems to have been after vengeance, rather than justice, Winnie Mandella may find her current accommodations to be rather… uncomfortable…

  4. With what I see going on now in SA, looks likes she won or is on the verge of winning. Looks like a repeat of Zimbabwe.

  5. This is an interesting commentary completely unknown to most of us in the US. We were always told she was a great leader fighting the injustice done to her people by the evil whites. We had not idea she was not noble.

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