Defending herself from claims by Nelson Mandela’s embattled former wife and ANC national executive committee member Winnie Madikizela that she never gave an interview to journalist Nadira Naipaul, the wife of Trinidadian Nobel Prize winner V. S. Naipaul urged Mandela to “stand by her controversial words and show the great leadership for which she has become known.” Lady Naipaul spoke to City Press about last week’s explosive interview with Madikizela-Mandela in London’s Evening Standard newspaper. Speaking from her home in Wiltshire, England, Naipaul said that she stood by the contents of the interview, which was conducted in July last year when she visited Madikizela-Mandela’s home in Soweto with her husband, Nobel literature prize laureate Sir VS Naipaul.
The interview made headlines across the world, notably because of Madikizela- Mandela’s perceived attack on her former husband’s legacy. She was quoted as saying that Mandela had “sold out” black South Africans and that the Mandela name was “an albatross around the necks” of her and her family.
Naipaul said yesterday that she wrote her article “with great respect and admiration” for Madikizela-Mandela, and she was disappointed that the latter was now denying she had granted the interview. The meeting arose out of a conversation Naipaul had with guests at a dinner party, several of whom were criticizing Madikizela-Mandela: “They were reviling her and I was defending her.”
City Press has, however, independently verified that the Naipauls did pay a visit to Madikizela-Mandela at her Orlando East home last year during the couple’s brief stay in Johannesburg. The author, whom some have called the greatest living writer in the English language, was in South Africa researching material for his new book which is reportedly about “earth religions” on the continent. V. S. Naipaul – who met with a wide range of people during his stay, from kwaito stars to sangomas and “diversity trainers” – requested an audience with Madikizela-Mandela to discuss how her religious beliefs had sustained her during her numerous detentions and imprisonments under apartheid. Nadira Naipaul, who took notes during the interview, disputed that Madikizela-Mandela thought she was having a private conversation. “She was very open. Also, she knew that Vidia was researching a book and that I was a journalist. If she was a real statesman she would stand by everything she said, and not deny it.”
Nadira, who until her marriage and relocation to England had written under the name Nadira Khannum Alvi, was an influential and well-known journalist and columnist in her native Pakistan. She also contributed to several UK publications, including Tatler magazine.
She said Madikizela-Mandela should have used the opportunity provided by the publication of the interview to articulate what was on the minds of many ordinary South Africans.
Asked why she thought her interview had become such a sensation, she said: “I think it’s because she is voicing what some people (in South Africa) feel but would never dare say.”
Naipaul said of Madikizela-Mandela’s denial: “No one has the courage to tell it like it is, and she did.”
For more from the City Press interview go to http://www.citypress.co.za/Content/SouthAfrica/Features/2167/11b5cec00be046b4832c1ca84a1d1863/15-03-2010-01-09/%E2%80%98I_gave_Winnie_the_chance_to_rise_again%E2%80%99