Winnie: Mandela 'disappointed' with lack of progress

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Away from the immediate concerns of Nelson Mandela's health and her comments about the ghastly photocall the ANC leadership subjected the former president to a few weeks ago, my interview with Winnie Mandela was interesting for two principal reasons.

Firstly her comments that Mandela is disappointed with the lack of progress in tackling the wrongs of apartheid.

He quit as president in 1999 and Winnie says he, himself, could not have done more, but there is a strong feeling among some activists that Mandela was too generous to the white population and that the balance needs to be redressed.

Winnie told me that "as long as we have the kind of electoral system we have, I think South Africa will continue having problems.

"[The] time will come when we have to return to the drawing board or the leadership does, and devise a policy that is not going to bruise the masses of the country".

She spoke of the rate of youth unemployment being a "ticking time bomb waiting to explode" and "it's no secret that the youth of this country is very angry".

Here, Winnie Mandela knows a thing or two. To the many millions of poor blacks she remains the Mother of the Nation.

Read: Exclusive: Ex-wife Winnie talks of 'sadness' over Mandela health

I am a writing this waiting for my peri peri chicken livers and fillet steak in a rather smart restaurant in Vilakazi Street, Soweto, close to Mandela's former home and just a little further up the road from the residence of Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

Soweto has changed enormously in the last two decades, but the fact remains that for many people in other townships things haven't changed enough.

Winnie Mandela spoke passionately about the unskilled Africans who are the product of that brutal system of apartheid. She believes they have a bleak future - and that is very dangerous for South Africa.

Winnie and Nelson Mandela pictured in April 1990 at a concert in Wembley stadium.
Winnie and Nelson Mandela pictured in April 1990 at a concert in Wembley stadium. Credit: PA/PA Archive

I don't buy into the theory of some sort of outbreak of street protests when Mandela goes. This is a young democracy, yes, but it's also a fast maturing one and any protest will saved for next year's elections.

But there may be a feeling that without Mandela it will be easier to, as Winnie Mandela puts it, "rebalance" things here.

And the second point that interested me was her reaction to questioning over the allegations of kidnap and murder that have haunted her since the eighties.

We were told she wouldn't talk about her much feared Mandela United Football Club, the soccer-shirted bodyguards who became almost a private army back in the dark days. But talk she did.

She said it once suited the apartheid regime to call her a murderer, now it suited sections of the media to do the same.

She vehemently denied murder but said she would everything she did then and "one hundred times more".

In fact she was bursting with pride at her role in recruiting youths for the ANC and its military wing, Mkhonto We Sizwe.

Winnie Mandela is older and, who knows, even wiser. But she is still forthright, still controversial and, above all, still unrepentant.