Today in African History;16th May


On this day in 1977;Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, wife of imprisoned ANC leader, Nelson Mandela, was banished to a dusty Afrikaner dominated town of Brandfort in the Free State where she was unceremoniously dumped at house 802 with her youngest daughter, Zinzi. There was no running water, no electricity, and the house had no floors or ceilings. The town was hostile, and the people spoke mainly Sotho, Tswana or Afrikaans, and hardly any Xhosa, which was Winnie’s home language. Winnie took a provocative stance, and would spend hours in the White shops empowering the shop-keepers with political ideologies. In her banishment order, Winnie was given a condition of either leaving South Africa for Swaziland or Transkei , which was regarded as independent by the South African government. However, she chose to remain in South Africa, where she continued fighting for the liberation of her people and at times arrested for defying her banishment order.

Her life in Brandfort was lonely. However, her youngest daughter was sent away to study, whilst her oldest daughter had married a Swazi Prince and moved to America. Helen Suzman captured the isolation when she wrote that Winnie waited outside the local telephone booth between 10 am and 4 pm waiting for calls from friends and relations. But when friends, like Helen Joseph, Barbara Waite, Ilona Kleinschmidt, and others came to visit her in Brandfort, they were harassed and often taken to court and imprisoned, for not notifying the authorities about their visits.

Also on this day in 1997; Mobutu Sese Seko, who has ruled Zaire for more than 30 years, looting it of billions of dollars, flees the capital city as rebel forces advance. The rebels enter the city the next day and Laurent Kabila declares himself head of state.
Equally on this day in 1996;A team of American palaeontologists announces the discovery of a 1.5 million year old skull of the shark-toothed reptile Carcharodontosaurus saharicus in the Sahara desert, Morocco.

Also on this day in 1907;Britain, France, and Spain sign the Pact of Cartagena – an agreement to maintain the status quo in the Mediterranean and West Africa.


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