Winnie Mandela Banned and Harassed

Intimidated by Police

©Eric Miller
1960 and 1961 brought happiness for Winnie with the birth of her second daughter, Zindziswa, and her husband, Nelson Mandela’s not-guilty verdict from the Treason Trial that started in 1956. Her happiness was short lived. Nelson was forced into hiding, dramatically changing the dynamic of their relationship. Now she had to meet her heavily disguised husband in covert places, fitting into his secret activities whether she liked it or not. In March 1961 Nelson was discovered and taken into police custody. This time Nelson would not be released for another 27 years.

Predicting that Winnie would continue her husband’s work against the government, the police issued her with a banning order in 1962. Under the banning order Winnie was confined to Johannesburg and barred from entering educational facilities or attending meetings of more than two people. Media outlets were also prohibited from publishing anything she said. She was incessantly harassed by police who attempted to intimidate her with aggressive raids that turned her house upside down. Winnie described the raids as such:

“…that midnight knock when all about you is quiet. It means those blinding torches shone simultaneously through every window of your house before the door is kicked open. It means the exclusive right the security branch have to read each and every letter in the house. It means paging through each and every book on your shelves, lifting carpets, looking under beds, lifting sleeping children from mattresses and looking under the sheets. It means tasting your sugar, your mealie meal and every spice on your kitchen shelf. Unpacking all your clothing and going through each pocket. Ultimately it means your seizure at dawn, dragged away from little children screaming and clinging to your skirt, imploring the white man dragging Mummy away to leave her alone.”

Severe Banning Orders

©Eric Miller
In May 1963 Nelson Mandela was unexpectedly transferred to the prison on Robben Island.

This was very difficult for Winnie. In order to visit him she had to travel 1 400 km from Johannesburg to Cape Town and then take a 10 km boat ride out to the island.

Once there, she was only allowed to see Nelson for 30 minutes, standing on the other side of a wire mesh fence. Security stood close enough to hear them and they were only allowed to speak English or Afrikaans.

Winnie has issued a more severe banning order in 1965. This one forbid her from moving anywhere outside Orlando West. She had to give up her job as a social worker and struggled to find a new one as police intimidated anyone who would hire her.

The police also interfered heavily in the schooling of her daughters who were forced to move from school to school before Winnie sent them away to school in Swaziland.