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Author: Rachel Holmes
Title: De-segregating sexualities: sex, race, and the politics of the 1991 Winnie Mandela trial
Publication info: Ann Arbor, Michigan: MPublishing, University of Michigan Library

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Source: De-segregating sexualities: sex, race, and the politics of the 1991 Winnie Mandela trial
Rachel Holmes

Evanston, IL: Program of African Studies, Northwestern University
no. 5, pp. 10, 12-14, 1993
Author Biography: Rachel Holmes is in the Department of English, Queen Mary and Westfield College, University of London.

De-segregating sexualities: sex, race, and the politics of the 1991 Winnie Mandela trial

by Rachel Holmes

"We cannot destroy segregation with a weapon of segregation." (James Farmer, in Equality, 1, November 1944, p. 2)

"... as Malcolm X put it, white is a state of mind. The great question is how to attack that state of mind." (James Baldwin, in conversation with Margaret Mead, A Rap on Race, Michael Joseph, 1971, p. 70)

"You are called coloureds because not long after they (Europeans) landed here in 1652, these despicable people raped our grandmothers." (Winnie Mandela, addressing the Toekomsrus branch of the ANC Women's League, 22nd April 1991)

Balancing on the pre-transitional edges of contemporary South African history, Winnie Mandela's public statement articulates a crucial presencing of the despicable history of white colonialization of South Africa. As with the encounter between rapist and victim, the first encounter between colonized and colonizer, as Fanon reminds us, "was marked by violence—that is to say the exploitation of the native by the settler—was carried on by dint of a great array of bayonets and canon." [1] Within the conspectus of Fanon's critique, contemporary South African history is contextualized within the moment of decolonization, "always a violent phenomenon." [2] As an already 'post-colonial' State, divested from British rule, this is the specific moment of decolonization from white oppression, a double de-colonization that bears the weight of its historical complexity.

Where radicalism is sustained, historical conditions are shifted and reformulated by practices which resist the social, political and economic boundaries and limits of the apartheid State. Identities which refuse to be enclosed within those boundaries change historical conditions, and attention to that change reveals, in some quarters, a re-formulation and displacement of the rapacity of that first colonial encounter: in South Africa, colonizing assault now uneasily co-exists with a resistant, traceable, practiced and activated history of inter-racial sexual practices and mixed-race identities which are not constituted exclusively at the edge of a bayonet, at the mouth of a canon. To ignore this and figure mixed-race subjectivity as colonial contamination effected through rape is to dismiss both the integrity of mixed-race and polyvalent sexual practices and identities, and to deny the cogency of their political radicalism which moves between the crosses over the policed boundaries of apartheid's segregated homelands of enforced racial and sexual identity. Fixed, unshifting versions of racial, sexual, cultural and political identity as unitary and segregable shore up the obstructive impasses of apartheid ill-logic; apartheid as theory and practice relies upon the sustenance of this notion of fixed homelands of essential identity, which it has used to enable policies of enforced segregation and the structuring of rigid power relationships. Within the straight-jacket of the binary oppositions of apparently unsurmountable segregation, the subjects of apartheid oppression remain constrained within the asymmetrical relations of apartheid's own historical terms—insisting on the inevitable violation of the victim abandons the potential subject of emancipation, floored, as victim.

Winnie Mandela made the above statement during the progress of a Supreme Court criminal trial where she, along with three co-accused, was being tried for kidnap, assault and intention to do grievous bodily harm. Mandela's defence case, conducted by George Bizos, mobilized itself by coding homosexuality as sexual abuse, and through the figure of the white Methodist minister Reverend Paul Verryn, created a public discourse of homosexual practice as a white, colonizing depredation of (heterosexual) black culture. "Homosex is not in black culture," read a placard held by one of Mandela's supporters outside the court, sloganizing homosexuality as a white exploitation of black subjectivity, and in itself, just another form of rapine colonization.

I would suggest that there is a logical congruence between the portrayal of homosexuality in the 1991 Winnie Mandela Trial and her historical account of mixed-race identity simultaneously offered at Toekomsrus. Under the rubric of this thinking, both homosexuality and inter-racial sex (be it homo- or hetero-) are not just equivalent to, but are in themselves actual colonial rape and abuse. The narrative of the events provoking the case and the trial itself intertwined the question of interracial sex and homosexuality in a way that produced a kaleidoscopic and confrontational patterning of many of the historical configurations, life experiences and political issues that characterize and condition the imbricated nature of race, sex, gender, age, class and politics in South African political culture. The heterogenous complexity of their contending interplay demonstrated during the trial traces both the impossibility of segregating their 'difference', and the danger of inculcating the hegemonic, essential primacy of any identity which denies internal differentiation.

As a case concerning human rights, the 1991 Winnie Mandela Trial therefore acts as an indicative barometer of deeply contested ideological and theoretical ground, and as an event—fabricated and textualized in a public discourse highly mediated by the South African and international press—in itself shifts and reformulates this ground.

The events leading up to the trial and the unfolding of the case itself, still pending appeal, are extensive and complex. Moreover, as the case is still effectively in progress, new events, recanted testimonies, disproved alibis, contestation between the defendants and wider political events catch up with, overtake and overturn the possible reconstructions of the case, as do the practical constraints of writing what is necessarily an introductory, and not thematically inclusive, over-view of the discourses produced around the trial and the issues it raised.

In January 1989, The Weekly Mail (Johannesburg) and The Guardian (London) published a scoop story revealing that, on the 29th December 1988, four "youths" had been abducted from a Methodist Church Manse in Orlando West, Soweto, and taken to the Diepkloff Extension home of Winnie Mandela against their will. Here they were allegedly questioned, subjected to a variety of accusations, seriously physically assaulted and then held captive. The victims of this abuse were: Kenny Kgase (29), Thabiso Mono (18), Pelo Gabriel Mekgwe (19) and "Stompie" Moeketsi Seipei (14).

These revelations produced an uproar over the conduct of the Mandela United Football Club (the MUFC, Winnie Mandela's personal "team" of, ostensibly, bodyguards) and over the disappearance and alleged murder of "Stompie". The controversy featured questions relating to the extent of Winnie Mandela's complicity and personal involvement in the events, as the youths claimed that she had personally assaulted them. This story, and subsequent trial, led to Jerry Richardson, former "coach" of MUFC, being found guilty of the kidnap and assault of Mono, Mekgwe and Kgase, and of the murder of "Stompie". At Richardson's trial, Winnie Mandela argued that the 'boys' had been removed from the manse to protect them from sexual abuse by the Methodist priest in charge, the Reverend Paul Verryn.

The Richardson Trial cleared Verryn of the allegation of sexual abuse, as had already been done by both a local community enquiry and a formal Methodist Church investigation.

Mandela herself was brought to trial on the 4th February 1991. In the presence of a witness-stand packed with high-profile ANC-alliance leaders, Winnie Mandela and three co-accused were charged with kidnapping and assault with intention to do grievous bodily harm, and a basis of common purpose was alleged. All pleaded not guilty to the charges. Key witnesses for the state prosecution were Kgase, Mono, and Mekgwe, the remaining survivors of the assault.

When testifying, Winnie Mandela denied that she had assaulted anyone or that any assault had been committed in her presence. She claimed that in December 1988 Xoliswa Falati, who was working in the manse, had approached her and claimed that (homo)sexual abuse was occurring in the manse.

According to The Sowetan reportage, Mandela asserted that Falati, " ... informed me that some of the youths were following Verryn's example of indulging in homosexual practices and that a youth Katiza Cebekhulu had, as a result of indecent assault on him by Verryn, become mentally disturbed." [3] Note how this invokes the theme of homosexual practice as producing or being equivalent to mental and emotional instability, reproducing the prejudicial view of homosexuality as mental disorder and/or clinical condition that can be 'cured'. Mandela claimed that she had responded by suggesting to Falati that Cebekhulu be brought to her, and that on 29th December they went to the surgery of Dr. Abu-Bakar Asvat where Cebekhulu was examined. Following this she stated that she left Soweto, and on returning on the 31st December was told by Falati that she had arranged with Jerry Richardson for four "youths" to be brought from the manse to deter the absent Paul Verryn from frustrating investigations into the alleged sexual abuse upon his return, and to prevent the spread of such practices amongst the youths staying there.

Dr. Abu-Bakar Asvat was shot dead in his surgery on the 27th January 1989; whether he found that Cebekhulu had been raped or not is therefore only conjectural. However, his surgery notes and Winnie Mandela's testimony state that he recommended that Verryn and Cebekhulu should seek psychiatric treatment. Mandela's account of events therefore justified the removal of the youths from the manse on the grounds that they were being (homo)sexually assaulted.

As indicated above, it was Xoliswa Falati who was the apparent origin of this allegation. The main co-accused in the trial, Falati had been working in the Methodist manse and involved in the care of its inhabitants at the time of these events. From the way it appeared in the media coverage, Falati's testimony seems to have been a combination of contradiction and self-righteousness. For example, at different times she stated that Cebekhulu had been raped by Verryn, or that Verryn had attempted to rape him. Her testimony included extensive reference to the "insertions" or genitalia into "private parts," "touching all over," buttocks, "thigh rubbing," and "rape." Interestingly, the only aspect of her testimony which was consistent was that however much she confused who exactly was doing what to whom at what particular time, all of the youths were involved in having sex with each other. A statement accorded to her by the Daily Dispatch echoes unmistakably with Winnie Mandela's own characterization of homosexuality as sexual abuse, and notably uses the language of the political family to authorize the right to protect social-subjects, "What should I have done about Reverend Paul Verryn raping our children?" [4]

The defendant's insistence on the relevance of Paul Verryn's imputed sexual behavior was further indicated in John Morgan's testimony. Morgan, a former driver for the MUFC, and driver of the vehicle that had 'collected' the youths from the manse on the night in question, claimed from the witness stand that Jerry Richardson had questioned "Stompie" specifically about his relationship with Verryn, charged him with being an impimpi (informer), and slapped him. The testimonies of Kgase and Mono seemed to suggest that the real location of 'abuse' and 'assault' was in fact Mandela's home, rather than the manse. Both claimed that they were questioned in a back room of Mandela's house, that she herself attended, and that they were instructed to refer to her as 'Mummy' by Richardson. They maintained that Mandela stated Cebekhulu to be hysterical because he had been raped by Verryn, and that she beat them. "Stompie," as indicated above, was accused of being an impimpi, and Mekgwe and Mono were 'accused' of sleeping with Verryn. Kgase alleged that Winnie Mandela stated that "we were not fit to be alive," and that he was gripped by the hair and shoulders and asked why he had to protect a white person he had made friends with: "She kept punching me saying that I was an intellectual ignoring my call to free Africa." [5]

Therefore, to the imputation that homosexuality is of itself 'wrong', was added a combination of both whiteness and intellectualism as betraying the fight against oppression. The theme of betrayal, of proximity to or involvement in certain sexual practices representing untrustworthiness, was most clearly marked by the question of informing being aligned to homosexual behavior: in other words, the loaded ramifications of 'impimpi' in the South African context.

The significance of the emphases in these accounts needs to be considered in the context of George Bizos' defence approach which sought to justify the recourse to violence as a 'natural' response to 'unnatural' and inherently abusive homosexual practices. It was the combination of Bizos' homophobic line of defence and the failure of the ANC at national level to dispute this homophobia being deployed to defend one of its key members that produced an organized and vocal response from the politicized sectors of the South African lesbian and gay community. I will return to the details and political implications of this response below, at this stage it is worth pausing to investigate Bizos' case within its legal frame, as doing so throws light on the ways in which the lesbian and gay sexual struggle is embedded within wider historical and political issues. The central issue in the Mandela Trial, legally speaking, was not whether violence happened, but whether or not this violence was justified. Thus perspectivized as a question of assessing the legality of violence, Bizos' approach situated his case within that branch of legal philosophy which, in Walter Benjamin's words, "imposes itself in the question (of) whether violence, in a given case, is a means to a just or an unjust end." [6]

Since the formation of Umkhonto we Sizwe in December 1961, and the Rivonia Trials—in which Bizos was involved—arguing the ethics of distinction between legitimate and illegitimate violence has been a key facet of the ANC's struggle with the apartheid state. It is important to note that with respect to the 'legal' status of homosexuality, Winnie Mandela had not infringed any specific law, there is no legal jurisdiction against assaulting or infringing the rights of homosexuals in South Africa. In fact, given the history of police intimidation and arrest for 'soliciting', legitimated by anti-gay legislation, harassment and policing of homosexuality is in fact state sanctioned. Given the Law and Human Rights Committee's recent commitment in principle to the decriminalization of homosexuality and sex-working (March 1993), there is potential for change in this crucial area, but at the time of the trial the absence of legally constituted protection for lesbians and gays effectively subjugated the issue of homosexual humanity beneath the question of whether the individual use of violence outside the law can be proven justified. What is crucial about this configuration is how the limits of juridical law depend upon emplacing that which it attempts to expel within its own boundaries. Without including the figure of homosexuality as a site of justifiable subjugation and attack, Bizos had no case.

As Benjamin points out, natural law determines violence as a product of nature, "appropriate to all the vital ends of nature," and positive law sees violence as a product of history: "Natural law attempts, by the justness of the ends, to 'justify' the means, positive law to 'guarantee' the justness of the ends through the justification of the means." [7] Interestingly, the Mandela Trial deployed both this 'natural' and 'positive' casting of violence through constructing versions of homosexuality which made preconceived notions of 'the laws of nature' look ethically dubious, and ignored history by using it unhistorically.

Approached from a position which questions and refuses the discourse of homophobia, it is possible to see how Winnie Mandela's reading of the history of colonialism through asymmetrical power relations in sexuality flounders on its apperception and denigration of homosexuality as an unjustly oppressed constituent of that asymmetry. If there is a commitment to resisting the illogic of segregation and to protecting the rights of the colonized to the struggle for emancipation, the matrices of the events provoking the Mandela Trial cannot be exclusively or responsibly read in terms of the history of colonization as an irreversible process of sexual contamination. "(A)partheid is simply one form of the division into compartments of the colonial world. The first thing which the native learns is to stay in his place, and not to go beyond certain limits." [8] Clearly, to moralistically and violently police homosexual and mixed-race practices it to push back the subjects of oppression to within precisely those boundaries which circumscribe their freedom.

Fanon here describes colonialism as being effected through the organization of space, and it is the history of colonialism as a contaminating and limiting production of space which more accurately denotes the role of history in this trial. By ignoring this history, Bizos' line of defence—augmented by Mandela's public statements—effectively misused economically determined material conditions to produce an ahistorical, universalizing version of 'unnatural' sexuality. Furthermore, the public discourse surrounding the trial denied the pre-colonial history of homosexual practices in South African cultures. To read homosexuality as a by-product of contaminated space is not only historically inaccurate, it is also to fatally seal the homosexual subject within the inescapable boundaries of oppression, and to suggest that the delimitation of colonial space necessarily carries with it the destruction of homosexual practices; homosexuality hereby becomes a waste-product of colonialism which has no right to space in the new emancipatory social order.

The issue is not that homosexual practices are only resultant from and possible in a certain formation of always-already denigrated space, but, more specifically that there is no space for the practices of the colonized who is a homosexual. As Fanon reminds us, the subject of colonization lives in, "a world without spaciousness." [9] The question of the relationship between space and sexuality is—literally—'embedded' in the defence of violence against imputed homosexuality in the Winnie Mandela Trial. Crucially, it is the relationship in which the distinction between sexual consent and sexual abuse is grounded.

From March 1991 onwards, George Bizos shifted the emphasis of the case from concentration on the alleged kidnapping and assault by Winnie Mandela to her co-accused to the imputed sexual abuse by Paul Verryn. Bizos' line was very clear: if it could be proven that Mandela believed Verryn had been sexually abusing the manse inmates, then the removal of these inmates could be justified, as presumably could verbal abuse, sjambokking, slapping, beating, dropping to the ground from a height and holding people against their will. The logic-chopping inherent in defending abuse against alleged victims of abuse will be returned to below.

Bizos' argument that the 'young boys' were removed to protect them from a damaging environment was effected by linking homosexuality with child abuse in a way that calculatedly did not distinguish between them. Connecting homosexual practice with abuse in terms of it being an exploitation of the vulnerability of disadvantaged people, Bizos relentlessly pursued details about the alleged sexual relationships Verryn had with the victims of apartheid in his care. The approach was a powerful one, which fed off both social bigotry and historical inaccuracy, as demonstrated in the "Homosex is not in black culture" slogan, and in the moralism of press language: "Is Methodist Minister Reverend Paul Verryn a sex abuser who corrupts black youths or is he a dedicated Christian martyr who has made many sacrifices in the struggle? And was the Orlando West Methodist Manse a refuge for the unfortunate, or a den of iniquity? [10] These rhetorical questions, placed in the context of the charges against Verryn, immediately suggest that male homosexuality, by now hopelessly conflated with sexual abuse and colonial contamination, is incompatible with dedication to the struggle. This division, between, at a basic level, 'appropriate politics' and 'appropriate sex' placed those located at the manse as a confusing admixture of politically evacuated homosexuals and/or abusers, who were simultaneously disadvantaged victims of abuse, and those in Mandela's house as dedicated members of the struggle endeavoring to maintain its (heterosexual) moral values.

This conflation between homosexuality and abuse was fabricated by embedding its causality in a narrative of bed sharing arrangements. Bizos drew the witnesses out regarding a pattern whereby new arrivals at the manse would spend their first night in the bed of Verryn, accompanied by one or two other residents. Mono and Kgasse confirmed this as having been their experience, producing such media headlines as; 'Pastor slept with boys, court told', 'The men in the Reverend's bed', and 'I slept in priest's bed, says witness'.

It is in respect of this that the testimony of Peter Storey, Methodist Bishop of Johannesburg, becomes relevant. Storey claimed that in mid-October 1988 it was reported to him that rumors regarding homosexual practices at the manse were being circulated in the local community. Verryn himself reported these rumors to the Bishop. Storey did not act initially, but later set up a pastoral commission to investigate the charges. As no-one provided the commission with evidence in support of these rumors, Verryn was cleared of the imputations against him. Knowing that, due to shortage of space in the manse, Verryn shared a double bed with its residents from time to time, Storey advised him to make his bedroom out of bounds. Verryn was agreeable, but pointed out it would take time to arrange this due to shortage of space. Mono had confirmed in his testimony that there were insufficient beds.

Soweto is the largest urban black community in South Africa. In large areas, poverty, overcrowding, poor street lighting, lack of community and recreational facilities characterize the urban environment. Material shortages of resources and space, which determine overcrowding, create bed-sharing and shift arrangements, familiar to many subjects of apartheid both in urban housing conditions and residential labor conditions in the urban areas, such as in industrial compounds and hostels. To pursue a line of questioning which seemed to imply that proximity due to material necessity inevitably produces 'unnatural' practices can be seen as another version of the homosexuality-as-colonial-defilement model. That the oppression of white apartheid capital produces inadequate and unacceptable living conditions which are an offence to human rights is uncontestable. However, to deduce from this that apartheid is the cause of homosexual practices that take place in these environments is to recapitulate the unhistorical version of homosex as a white contamination of black culture which thus deserves violent repression.

Given the above description of the way the theme of sexual abuse was embedded in the defence case, two questions clearly present themselves. Firstly, what was the basis for this claim? Secondly, what specifically was taken to constitute sexual abuse?

The existing testimony is ambiguous and unsatisfactory. Under cross examination, Kgase confirmed that he had been tickled by Verryn in bed. He said that he did not particularly like this, and that he had told Verryn to desist, which he did. This is as close as one gets in the trial to a reported testimony by one of the abducted and assaulted witnesses detailing a specific form of physical encounter at the manse. The defence pursued this issue of tickling with Kgase, from which line of questioning one can only infer that the court was apparently being asked to accept that tickling in a bed sharing situation, even though desisted from when not welcomed, constituted sexual abuse.

Thus far the analysis has focussed on the denigrated subjectivities of black and white homosexual men. One of the difficulties the ANC leadership was faced by in responding to the Mandela Trial was its apparent perception of itself as being placed between supporting the rights of two contending political communities, situated by the trial in antagonistic relation to one another. Male homosexuality on the one hand, and on the other the cultural locatedness of black women's political activism, undercut by the imbrication of violent sexism in racist colonial history. The discursive manifestations of this trial reflected the deeply repressed histories of many of the heterogeneous subjectivities which constitute the experience of and resistance to oppression in South Africa, a heterogeneity which marks the internal differentiation within the organization of that experience and resistance.

Discussing her childhood in an interview with Diana Russell, in a book dedicated "To the women of South Africa who are risking their lives to give birth to a new South Africa," Winnie Mandela recalled that her mother's devout Christianity required the cultivation of respect for adults, "and part and parcel of that was to respect the missionaries who were invariably white. We literally had to revere the white missionary because he commanded so much authority, and in rural set up, he was one whose advice everybody sought. These were Methodist missionaries, and we attended Methodist missionary schools. So we grew up becoming subservient to men of another color, whether they were missionaries or local traders. But then one day, when I was in standard three or four, I suddenly asked, "But why? This is my country." [11] Having situated her nascent awareness of the racial and sexual subservience instigated by colonial missionary history in relation to white Methodist masculinity, Mandela goes on to talk about her political activity, expressing her horror at the slaughter of children in the 1976 Soweto riots, and stressing how pass laws and influx control—resistance against which she was involved in—undermined "the concept of the family as the nucleus of the community." [12] The pedigree of Winnie Mandela's involvement with children is extensive; she was South Africa's first ever black social worker (working in pediatrics at Baragwanath), a key founder of the Black Parent's Association in 1976, and—until her recent demise—Head of the ANC's Department of Social Welfare. Recalling the effect of both her own and Nelson Mandela's imprisonment and solitary confinement on their family, Winnie Mandela expresses the dislocation caused by political resistance to apartheid, which echoes the displacement caused by labor control laws; "Their father, whom they had never known, was in prison. They had never known the pleasure of having a family, of having a father figure ..." [13]

These personal recollections, cast within the frame of her political commitment assisting apartheid's childhood victims, resonate in indicative ways with respect to Mandela's stated attitude to the Reverend Paul Verryn. On the 17th April 1991, breaking her press silence, Winnie Mandela was reported by The Argus to have said that she had wanted to hold an 'indoor enquiry' into the allegations of sexual abuse she had heard about the Methodist minister. In relation to this, she stated: "He was doing the same kind of work that I was doing, providing food, shelter and educational facilities. For that I held him in high esteem. I intended to contain this problem among ourselves and I had hoped that Paul Verryn would allow himself to be assisted by a psychiatrist. I could not understand how a man who was doing such valuable work could at the same time abuse children who had no choice but to depend on him." The identification Winnie Mandela makes here between her own role and Verryn's role is absolutely crucial. The characterization of those in receipt of food, shelter and educational facilities as 'dependent children' suggests that Mandela perceived herself and Verryn as fulfilling roles based on a familial model. Where the Methodist Manse was presided over by pastoral male, 'white father' figure, the Diepkloof Extension represented a household structure presided over by a black woman, styled as 'mother' in relation to her attendants (the MUFC) and the community. In terms of the trial, the homosocial sexuality of the former became situated in political and moral distinction to the latter, represented as a site of heterosexuality.

The Winnie Mandela trial thus articulated itself publicly through the discourse of the family. By insisting on the singularity of a fixed heterosexuality, dominant ideologies of the family—whether social, biological or metaphorical—repudiate and exclude the possibilities of and the rights to plural sexualities by attempting to contain and police their practice, and it is this operation of power and control that constitutes the heterosexism of the family. Central to these ideological formations is the taboo of child sexuality; 'children' are presumed 'innocent', unless 'guilty' of demonstrating signs of sexualization. In this way, the heterosexist family becomes a central site of oppression for those who do not conform to its model of 'appropriate' sexual behavior, and who thus become familiar with the sexual policing, mental, verbal and physical abuse carried out and justified in the name of the family. Winnie Mandela's Diepkloof Extension arrangement therefore produced violence not in spite of, but because of being structured like a heterosexist family.

This structure must be situated within the wider framework of the metaphorical 'slippage' of the discourse of the family into nationalist politics. As Homi Bhabha puts it, "The nation fills the void left in the uprooting of communities and kin, and turns that loss into the language of metaphor. Metaphor ... transfers the meaning of home and belonging ... across those distances, and cultural differences, that span the imagined community of the nation people." [14] Echoing this point, and specifying its form of metaphoricity, Fanon suggests that the language of the family is a site of resistance to the dislocation and denial of social cohesion caused by colonization: "The very forms of organization of the struggle will suggest to him (the colonized) a different vocabulary. Brother, sister, friend—these are words outlawed by the colonialist bourgeoisie ..." [15]

As a result of the Winnie Mandela trial, the "Mother of the Nation" became transformed, in the headlines of the mass-media, into the "Mugger of the Nation." There are three 'related' points that need to be made in respect of the 'national mothering' metaphor which was ultimately deployed against Mandela to demonize her as the 'bad mother.' The incommensurability of these points demonstrate the contradictions rooted within the ideology of the heterosexist family.

In the vocabulary of the trial, the function that the category 'mother' performed was, quite specifically, the 'saving of children'. As can be seen, in this instance the 'saving of children' narrative infantilized the concept of homosexual practice as inappropriate child sexuality, and simultaneously undermined the political subjectivity and activism of dependent people. This infantilization is also reflected in the model of the Mandelas as a couple 'parenting' the nation. As husband and wife, estranged or otherwise, the symbolic role of the Mandelas has been one clearly predicated upon heterosexuality, an iconography which excludes a symbolic function for homosexuality in 'the national family'.

Two points need to be made with respect to this matrix. Firstly, that this infantilization with respect to childhood is deeply problematized by the history of black political resistance to apartheid repression in South Africa. Black children have been and are deeply vulnerable to the social dislocation consequent on the migrant labor system, but that vulnerability does not historically equate to the subject status of helpless victim. For young—very young—black South Africans have been at the forefront of direct active resistance and mobilization against apartheid, most markedly since the '76 Soweto uprising which ignited active mobilization and militancy in schoolchildren throughout the country. In the wake of 1976—a wake for slaughtered youth—many black 'children' crossed the South African borders for military training in MK camps, or activated organized youth resistance in (what was left of) the schools and townships, most significant in the formation of SAYCO. In 1989, Frank Chikane spoke of children in South Africa being denied the rights to be children, and of being violently forced by conditions to be adults before their time; making decisions 'normally' made by adults, faced with political choices, fighting battles. It is therefore necessary to situate the declensions and disputes in and around the Mandela Trial within the context of the political generation gap opened up by the Soweto and Sharpeville experiences, a gap, in Jacklyn Cock's words:

" ... centred on political differences with parents." [16]

Turning from 'children' and 'adults', it is equally crucial to point out how the very same discourse of the national family has been used to negate a black woman's political activism and emancipatory right to sexuality. In this respect the Winnie Mandela Trial must be contextualized along side the emergent evidence of Winnie Mandela's affair with Dali Mpofu, the imputed embezzlement of ANC funds and resultant estrangement from Nelson Mandela; another 'family' saga between husband and wife. National and international mass-media imagery—most notably in the supposedly less bigoted 'quality press'—festishized Winnie Mandela's sexuality and demonized her as "disreputable," "wicked," "wayward," and "betraying." She is, we were told, "a shrieking shrew of a wife" who reduced her husband to a "guilty," "doting," "lovesick fool" whose political credibility was apparently entirely dependent upon the control of the "fatal attraction" [17] of his wife, whose 'deployment' of violence and sexuality characterized her as a threat to national security. In a globalizing family discourse, the future of South Africa was cast as dependent upon the security of the Mandela marriage (for the ultimate in reactionary antirevolutionary sentiment shored up by the morality of marriage, see "This tragic marriage that could wreck a nation," Daily Mail (London), 15/5/92). Embarrassed by the demise of its mythologized mother, the feminist press tended to hide the issues behind a State conspiracy theory, thus 'othering' 'other' subjectivities and rights at stake in the trial. Emplotting the themes of excessive sexuality, violence, murder and political over-reaching, one 'respectable' foreign correspondent summed up as follows: "Private Eye ... was not entirely exaggerating when it drew a line of descent for Mrs. Mandela through Lucrezia Borgia, Myra Hindley and Lady Macbeth." [18] It is somewhat ironic that Carlin seems unable to draw his images of rapacious femininity from black history. These kinds of representations of Winnie Mandela are deeply racist and sexist, as bigoted and essentializing as the equivalent bigotry that produces homophobia. As this piece has sought to demonstrate, the events of the Mandela Trial cannot be explained as 'sexual' aberrations of individuals determined by a 'racialized' history; the attempt to do so reproduces the relations of oppression through a demonizing rhetoric. Although it was Winnie Mandela's own defence which insisted on casting events as a moral difficulty, this provides no ideological 'excuse' to use the same moralizing and destructive language against an active black political woman who has been hounded, imprisoned, repeatedly and violently made homeless and pilloried by dominant white masculinist discourses for over forty years. Such demonization performs another act of violence, this time against women—in the name of the family.

In conclusion, I will outline the response of the emergent lesbian, gay and bisexual movement in South Africa, referring to those groups committed to the dismantling of apartheid, class, race and gender oppression, and not to apolitical white lesbian, gay and bisexual formations which are too racist to mobilize against state oppression.

In response to the homophobia generated by the trial, GLOW (The Gay and Lesbian Organization of the Witwatersrand) took the lead, with a prompt and formally organized campaign. On the 13th March 1991, GLOW sent an open letter to the National Executive Committee of the ANC and bought advertising space to publish it in the national press. This letter specifically situated its opposition to the conduct of the trial defence with reference to Article 7(2) of the ANC's draft Bill of Rights which states that "Discrimination on the grounds of gender, single parenthood, legitimacy of birth or sexual orientation shall be unlawful." The letter referred to the anti-homosexual slogans displayed by ANC supporters outside the court, the damaging effects of failing to distinguish between rape and abuse, and the defence's use of allegations of homosexuality to detract from the real issues of the trial: " ... we feel that the defence is attempting to capitalize on conventional and reactionary prejudices against homosexuals. This is particularly disturbing as this defence is being raised by the head of the ANC's Department of Social Welfare. The line of defence is irreconcilable with basic principles of human rights outlined in the ANC's proposed Bill of Rights ... The ANC's failure to respond to the above, raises doubts regarding its stated commitment to the recognition of lesbian and gay rights. We therefore demand that the NBC states clearly and unequivocally, its position on the rights of lesbians and gay men." GLOW also announced the launch of a campaign to request progressive organizations, both local and international, "to re-affirm their commitment to the protection of lesbian and gay rights in a future and democratic South Africa."

To date, the ANC National Executive Committee has yet to formally respond to, or indeed, make any statement with specific reference to, the homophobia generated by this trial. ANC leadership thus failed, in both practical and theoretical terms, to match its general articulations and specific commitments couched in what might be called 'official liberation discourse' to the requirements of a specific set of grounded events which both endangered and abused its own members and political constituency. Despite the fact that a large number of local ANC branches formally expressed concern about the homophobia attendant on the trial, and that the issue was raised at the 1991 National Policy Conference, it was never taken up and discussed by leadership. These failures seem to have been the result of an executive level inability to deal with political and sexual 'difference' opening up within the ANC in a very public way. To see these 'differences' as unsurmountable or irreconcilable is to replicate the logic of binary opposition which characterizes the rationalization of colonial history and apartheid policy. Rather, as the work of Ernesto Laclau demonstrates, the need in such cases is to reconfigure the dimensions of emancipation beyond the reductive and binaristic oppositions social and political oppression have sought to predicate themselves upon. Oppositions clearly fissured and ruptured by the heterogeneity of subject resistance, identities and practices which defy the apparently clear limits of dualistic segregation signified by the 'homeland' border.

Since the trial opened, three significant acknowledgments of lesbian, gay and bisexual rights in the ANC have been made. Firstly, the warm message of support sent by Secretary General Cyril Ramaphosa to the participants in the 1991 Pride March held in Johannesburg. Secondly, the ANC's Policy Guidelines For A Democratic South Africa, adopted at the National Policy Conference in May 1992, which formally recognizes lesbian, gay and bisexual rights in Clause B5.1.7. Thirdly, the above-mentioned commitment in principle to decriminalize homosexuality and sex-working made by the joint ANC/government Law and Human Rights Committee in March 1993.

However, in political terms, the fact that there has still never been an official response to the homophobic crisis precipitated by the Winnie Mandela Trial should be viewed with caution as regards the effectiveness of specific policy commitments alone guaranteeing the protecting of sexual rights.

On the 13th May 1991 Winnie Mandela was found guilty of four charges of kidnapping and four charges of being an accessory after the fact of assault. She was sentenced to six years' imprisonment, currently under suspension. On the 16th July 1991, Mandela, Falati and Morgan were granted leave to appeal against their convictions and sentences. In April 1992, Winnie and Nelson Mandela officially announced their separation. And in August 1991, Winnie Mandela finally resigned from all leadership positions within the ANC. Given the consistent silence from the ANC leadership on the question of the trial homophobia, it is notable that it was Winnie Mandela's highly publicized heterosexuality as an independent woman, coupled with a relationship to violence deemed inappropriate to feminine heterosexuality, and not her complicity in homophobia, which augmented the factors contributing to her popular demise.

At the time of writing her sentence is still under appeal, continuing to place the role of sex in South African politics at stake as a necessary and public debate. An awareness of this indicates the continuing need for the fledgling South African lesbian and gay movement to mobilize around the issues highlighted by this trial, particularly in respect of the accountability of the liberation movement executive structures to militant sexual activists—usually either members within their own ranks or affiliated supporters—who regard their campaigns as an inherent part of the fight for non-racial democracy.

Ultimately, however, the question is not primarily about the social and political necessity of liberation politics arbitrating in matters of community justice. Rather, the issues raised by the Winnie Mandela Trial cut to the heart of questions about what constitutes democratic politics, and why the radicalness of the bid for democracy necessarily includes the question of sex. The homophobia of the Winnie Mandela Trial should serve as a timely reminder of the need to constantly challenge apartheid's logical failure of fixed identities locked into unchangeable power relations, a challenge that both pioneers and defends the democratizing possibilities of sexual practices as active resistance to economically and spatially enforced racial segregation.

The public discourse of homosexuality constructed by the defence in this trial tried to assert that homosexuality is not in black culture, but only an effect of members of that culture becoming tainted and contaminated by homosexuality inherent in white culture. This position is not only unhistorical insofar as it denies the widespread existence and genealogical history of homosexuality in pre-colonial black cultures, but theoretically obstructive to the practical possibility of an emancipatory postapartheid social order. Such an argument can only be sustained by suggesting that it is meaningful to talk of a hegemonic black culture or white culture, thus erasing the plurality of cultural forms existing in South Africa, an historical plurality which apartheid has constantly sought to repress and deny. The idea of color-coding sexuality is as ludicrous as the notion of separate development itself. It is not homosexuality, but the insistence on fixed homelands of 'essential' singular racial and sexual identity which causes violence, sexual policing and the subsequent alienation of sexual plurality from the democratic process.

1. Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth (London: Penguin, 1963), p. 28.

2. Fanon, p. 27.

3. Sowetan, February 12, 1991.

4. Daily Dispatch, April 13, 1991.

5. Sowetan, March 8, 1992.

6. Walter Benjamin, "Critique of Violence," in P. Demetz ed., Reflections (New York: Schocken Books, 1986), p. 132.

7. Benjamin, p. 133.

8. Fanon, p. 40.

9. Fanon, p. 30.

10. The City Press, March 17, 1993.

11. Diana Russell, Lives of Courage: Women for a New South Africa (New York: Basic Books, 1989), pp. 102-103.

12. Russell, pp. 102-103.

13. Russell, p. 103.

14. Homi Bhabha, "DissemiNation," in Nation and Narration, Homi Bhabha, ed. (London: Routledge, 1990), p. 291.

15. Fanon, p. 36.

16. Jacklyn Cock, Women and War in South Africa, 1992, p. 227.

17. See the Daily Dispatch, May 16, 1992; The Independent on Sunday, April 19, 1992; The Weekend Guardian, April 25, 1992.

18. John Carlin, The Independent on Sunday (London), April 19, 1992.

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