Winnie Madikizela-Mandela has launched an astonishing attack on Nelson Mandela, accusing the former president of failing black people.
In an interview published in a UK newspaper, she also called Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu a “cretin”.
Her comments follow her surprise absence from the 20th anniversary celebration of Mandela’s release from prison on February 11.
In yesterday’s unprovoked attack, she described the international icon as a betrayer who had turned soft and let down the black people of South Africa.
She alleged that Mandela had become a “corporate foundation” who was “wheeled out” by the ANC globally to collect money.
She and Mandela married in 1958, but divorced in 1996.
Madikizela-Mandela, 73, who holds the first position on the ANC’s national executive committee, was interviewed by Nadira Naipaul, the wife of novelist VS Naipaul, for the London Evening Standard.
Her comments have been met with dismay by an ANC spokesman who told the Cape Argus that the party was distancing itself from the attack.
In the interview, Madikizela-Mandela was quoted as saying: “This name ‘Mandela’ is an albatross around the necks of my family.
“You all must realise that Mandela was not the only man who suffered. There were many others, hundreds who languished in prison and died.
“Mandela did go to prison and he went in there as a young revolutionary but look what came out.
“Mandela let us down. He agreed to a bad deal for the blacks. Economically we are still on the outside. The economy is very much ‘white’.
“I cannot forgive him for going to receive the Nobel (peace prize) with his jailer, (FW) De Klerk. Hand in hand they went. Do you think De Klerk released him from the goodness of his heart? He had to. The times dictated it, the world had changed.”
Dave Steward, head of the FW de Klerk Foundation, immediately laughed off the slur.
“If Winnie Mandela is criticising FW de Klerk at the same time as Mr Mandela, then Mr De Klerk would feel that he’s in good company and on the right side of the equation.”
Madikizela-Mandela also spoke of her own struggle against apartheid, and admitted to having been scared.
“Yes, I was afraid in the beginning. But then there is only so much they can do to you. After that it is only death. They can only kill you and, as you see, I am still here.”
In addition, Madikizela-Mandela laid into the Truth and Reconciliation Committee, chaired by Tutu, before which she appeared in 1997 and which implicated her in gross violations of human rights.
She said: “What good does the truth do? How does it help anyone to know where and how their loved ones are killed or buried?
“That Bishop Tutu who turned it all into a religious circus came here (Soweto). He had a cheek to tell me to appear. I told him that he and his other like-minded cretins were only sitting there because of our struggle and me.”
A spokesperson from Tutu’s Milnerton office said hat the Archbishop was in Washington DC and would respond, if he chose to, tomorrow.
In the interview, Madikizela-Mandela also claimed that the ANC was exploiting her ex-husband.
“Look what they make him do. The great Mandela. He has no control or say any more.
“They put that huge statue of him right in the middle of the most affluent white area of Johannesburg. Not here (in Soweto) where we spilled our blood.
“Mandela is now like a corporate foundation. He is wheeled out globally to collect the money.”
In response to the article, the ANC said it would ask Madikizela-Mandela to explain her attack on the former president.
ANC spokesman Jackson Mthembu said that when the NEC met next week, they would ask Madikizela-Mandela whether she had indeed said Mandela had done nothing for the poor and had betrayed the black nation.
“We have to be fair, so we would want to hear from her whether she has been correctly quoted.
“It sounds very much out of character, but we will want to know in what capacity she was speaking because this sounds like a very drastic attack on the former president,” he said.
An aide who answered her phone this morning said she was not available to speak.
A spokesman for the Nelson Mandela Foundation had not returned calls at the time of going to press.