Winnie's banning order expired in September 1975 and thirteen years of silence was broken. She was in a sense pulled back from the dead. Durban welcomed her on Sunday, 12 October, at a tumultuous rally which began at the airport where some 600 people waited, led by Dr. Naicker, Bishop Manas Buthelezi, Fatima Meer, George Sithole, David Gas and M. J. Naidoo. The authorities baulked and disrupted the arrangements by changing the passengers' entrance. The carefully structured reception fell into disarray, the rank and file ran ahead of the 'leadership', someone swooped up Winnie and paraded her willy-nilly shoulder-high to the parking lot. Eventually she was brought to Dr Naicker and Bishop Manas Buthelezi and some fifty Zulu dancers joined in the formal welcome.
Her motorcade took a roundabout route through Umlazi and residents rushed out of their houses to see this Mandela. At last Winnie, dressed in the tribal robes of Xhosas, arrive at the packed hall of the YMCA, where over a thousand people had waited patiently to hear her speak.
Returning home on Monday following the meeting, reporter, Farook Khan, drew Fatima Meer's attention to the Minister of Justice and Prisons, Jimmy Kruger, whose car had just pulled up outside the airport. Fatima eased Winnie towards the indicated car 'to have some fun and games'. The Minister, a short man in wide-rimmed spectacles, was at the point half buried in the boot of the car, withdrawing suitcase. 'Mr. Kruger, I don't think we have met. I am Fatima Meer and this is Mrs. Mandela'. The little man beamed at the two women and said he was pleased to meet them. Winnie asked, 'When are you releasing my husband?' 'That's up to you,' he said, wagging a finger. 'Listen to him,' Winnie guffawed. 'He says it's up to me. What have I got to do with my husband's release?' ‘If you behave yourself,' the Minister said. 'Behave myself?' The two women laughed derisively and left the Minister to join their friends.
Winnie described her exciting time to Nelson and he wrote back:
I was even more happy to hear of your visit to Durban, about the presence of Ma Nokukhanya [Mrs. Albert Luthuli], Monty [Dr G. M. Naicker] and others and hope that the experience made you forget about the host of problems that worry you. Moments of complete relaxation and happiness when you are in the hands of warm and devoted friends who are ready to offer you their love and give you that feeling of security and confidence, born of the knowledge that you are beyond the reach of the wicked and surrounded by countless men and women who think fondly of you, who could pull you out from the claws of the hyenas and jackals that have been prowling around the house for so many years, is always a memorable occasion and a tremendous inspiration not only to you but also to the children, the family and myself.'
One day you'll relate everything to me and my chief interest will be whether the details will fill in the gaps between the lines as the picture took form in my mind with your account and that of Fatima. Your closeness to Fatima made me assume that you had seen Ismail as often as Fatima. He's always been nice and humorous.
1 December 1975
To Fatima, who had couched the whole event in Hindu mythology and thereby escaped the intelligence of the censors, Nelson replied:
A good head and a good heart are always a formidable combination. But when you add to that a literate tongue or pen, then you've something very special and a simple story one has heard repeatedly suddenly evokes significant moral lessons. Interest me in mythology? I'd try even magic if only you recommended it. As for mythology, my interest in that particular field has a long history my mother having fed me on it from the earliest days of childhood. I'd plenty of it at college, but outside the lecture mythology can be even more challenging and absorbing and that is why I've found your theme so particularly exhilarating.
An element of hindsight can't be completely eliminated in statements made after the happening of a relevant event. But I'd like you to know that since October 1974 I've missed a great deal and the idea of the goddess Zamona [reference to Winnie] descending into the third heaven repeatedly preoccupied me. This was nothing more than a mere whim which came and passed like winds and I attached no significance whatsoever to it. Only when I got your marvelous letter and that of Zami [Winnie] did thought occur whether the whim was a premonition or not. Perhaps we ought not to pursue this point much further less we end the supernatural world.
Suffice it to say that this particular narrative, rendered with characteristic skill, has dispelled all the pessimism that might flow out of the belief that all sparks have been drained off the Vhoras, Kolas, Hadas and Biharas [references to the Black peoples of Africa - Indian, African, 'Coloured'] and that the evil spirits are invincible. The simple lesson of religions of all philosophies and life itself is that, although evil may be on the rampage temporarily, the good must win the laurels in the end. Your story expresses this truth very well. I've always regarded the multiplicity of gods in Greek mythology as yet another manifestation of the widespread belief that the destiny of all natural and human affairs is in the hands of the divinities whose superhuman excellence is a source of inspiration and hope to all creation, an excellence which ultimately rule the world.
We, who were brought up in religious homes, and who studied in missionary schools, experienced the acute spiritual conflict occurred in us when we saw the way of life we considered sacred being challenged by new philosophies and when we realized that amongst those who dismissed our beliefs as opium were thinkers whose integrity and love of their fellow men was beyond doubt. But at least there was one thing in which both the adherents of the scriptures as well as atheists were agreed: belief in existence of beings with superhuman powers indicates what would like to be and how throughout the centuries he has fought against all kinds of evil and strived for a virtuous life.
You say that myths are not to be taken at their face value and that underlying are the great moral lessons. I accept that completely and whatever shifts may have occurred in my own outlook. I realize more than ever before the dynamic role of mythology in the exposition of human problems and in the moulding of human characteristics.
A few years ago I was browsing hurriedly through a review of the works of Euripides, Sophocles and other Greek scholars when I came across the statement that one of the basic tenets we have inherited from classical Greek philosophy was that a real man was one who could stand firmly on his feet and never bend his knees even when dealing with the divine.
Passage of time tends to blur even immortal teachings such as these and your story has revived all my interest in symbolic abstraction. If I had access to the Vedas and Upanishads I'd plough through them with all zest.
1 January 1976
In March 1979 Fatima wrote to Mrs. Gandhi, temporarily out of office as Prime Minister of India, to consider Mandela for the Nehru Award. She replied on 6 July 1979 from her home in 12 Willingdon Crescent, New Delhi:
I share your hopes for South Africa and Nelson Mandela. The Indian Government's attitude is such that any recommendations made by me is sure to be turned down. But I have tried to suggest Mandela's name indirectly. I shall certainly send a card to him, but my mail, incoming and outgoing, is very irregular.
Give my warmest greetings to all friends and comrades in your gallant struggle.
Mrs. Gandhi's suggestion worked. Mandela was awarded the Nehru prize for 1979. His obvious pleasure at the Award was expressed to Winnie:
With regards to the development of the last three months, 1979 has been a lucky year for the family, and I could literally picture you beaming with joy and pride for the first time after so many years of hard struggle, unemployment and loneliness. It is such a contrast to your experiences during the same months a decade ago. I am tremendously pleased to share the honours with you and I have serious doubts if that would have been possible without Ngutyana [Winnie] around.
I hope that when next you come you will give me more information about the Nehru Award.
3 February 1980
1979 was a good year. The pressure that Mum has endured for so long continued to ease. At the worst of times she has been able to give me a seductive smile. But the smile has flickered through a lifeless skin stretched out over bone and cartilage. This time there was blood in her cheeks, fire in her eyes and she became an inch taller after getting the UNISA results. Seeing her in that healthy and gay mood makes me feel really good.
21 January 1980
He was keen for Winnie to go to India and almost believed for a while that she would get a passport:
Fatima suggests that you and the girls and family take a trip to India and Britain. That's a fine idea and if you're able to get the passport the suggestion enjoys my full support. But taking the whole family across the Indian Ocean would be too costly and I'd suggest that you leave the girls behind so that there'd be somebody to arrange my visits in your absence. Besides, India once had wealthy princes with magnificent palaces and in case their glitter and attraction make Dadewethu change her nationality I'll not lose everything if the girls remain behind. Perhaps we're too optimistic in even thinking that the proposition is discussable but there's no harm in trying. I'll keep my fingers crossed.
I hope you are attending to the matter and that you will on no account allow it to go by default. You may already have contacted Matlala [Adelaide Tambo] to let her know of your plans and to ascertain the exact date of the formal ceremony. I also hope that you are keeping Zeni and Muzi informed about your plans in case she has to step into your shoes.
10 February 1980
With regard to the Nehru Award it is time that you tell me something about Zeni and Muzi's trip to India. If you find it difficult to go over this matter with them, I would suggest that you put more pressure through Reggie. Incidentally, I was shocked to hear about the sudden death of Indira's son. Such a tragedy is a disaster not only for Indira personally, but for the whole of India. From all reports he appeared to have been a reasonable young man and Indira may find it quite difficult to close the gap he has left.
29 June 1980
There was some confusion about the album of the proceedings at New Delhi. On 21/2 I understood you to mean that you had left it at Ayesha's place and I only discovered the misunderstanding when I got Eternal India on 23/2. Let Zindzi bring the album along when she visits me this month.
1 March 1981
Other awards and honours came in 1981 and through into 1983.
I hope you have already thanked Senator Tsongas. It is no small gesture for members of the American Congress to respond so magnificently and a personal letter under your signature would be a most appropriate way of responding. A personal letter to the Greeks will also be necessary. They are a new force with a bright future and an invitation to you to attend the Bundelog must be seen in this light.
31 March 1981
The Simon Bolivar Award which we share with Spain coincides with our twenty-fifth anniversary. These honours which have come from many parts of the world are a measure of support for our close friends, those with whom we grew up, schooled together, worked and lived in the same ghettoes, and with whom we shared unique experiences difficult to explain in our present circumstances, men and women who have denied themselves the pleasures, comforts and honours which they so richly deserve, so that you and I can enjoy some sort of security and happiness wherever we may be. They and they alone are primarily responsible for whatever delightful news may warm our hearts.
29 June 1983
This letter was written after Nelson Mandela had been nominated for the Chancellorship of London University:
The support of 7,199 against such prominent candidates must have inspired the children and all our friends inside and outside the country. To you, in particular, it must have been even more flattering making that miserable shack into a castle, making its narrow rooms as spacious as those of Windsor. I would like all our supporters to know that I did not expect to poll even 100, to say nothing of 7,199 against a British Princess and against so distinguished an English reformer as Mr. Jack Jones. That figure has a significance far more than can be expressed in a note written under my current circumstances.
1 March 1981
Dear friends of SAHO
South African History Online (SAHO) needs your support.
SAHO is one of the most visited websites in South Africa with over 6 million unique users a year. Our goal is to fulfill our mandate and continue to build, and make accessible, a new people’s history of South Africa and Africa.
Please help us deliver this by contributing upwards of $1.00 a month for the next 12 months.