Today marks the third anniversary since the death of global icon, former president of South Africa, Nelson Mandela. Incidentally, this day also marks the 60th anniversary of his two-week arrest, under the apartheid regime, on allegations of high treason. While Mandela may have never taken to the Jehovah’s Witness faith, it, nevertheless, had an intimate, albeit indirect, impact on him via his first wife, Evelyn Ntoko Mase.

Mandela and Evelyn (‘Mandelyn’) met through the latter’s cousin, political veteran, Walter Sisulu, in Soweto, Johannesburg. Enchanted by Evelyn, Mandela whipped out the ‘Madiba magic’ and the two eventually went on to marry at the Native Commissioner’s Court, on October 5, 1944. Concerning their first encounter, Evelyn once told South African writer and anti-apartheid activist, Fatima Meer: ‘I think I loved [Mandela] the first time I saw him. [T]here was something very special about Nelson. […] Everyone we knew said we made a good couple.’[1] Yes. This romantic affair, however, would soon be met with marital discord, the product of which was already stewing in the background.

The two eventually had children (ultimately four), the second of which, a daughter, Makaziwe, died after nine months, owing to meningitis. The couple’s next daughter, a fourth child, born 1954, was named in honour of the deceased. It was around this time that Evelyn made contact with Jehovah’s Witnesses. In fact, it is said that Evelyn took the birth of her second daughter, Makaziwe (‘Maki’), as ‘a sign from God and became a Jehovah’s Witness.’[2]

By this time, also, Mandela was deeply invested in political activism against the then apartheid regime, much to the frustration of Evelyn who, not only felt neglected by her ever-absent political husband, but whose desire was to return back, with her husband, to their quiet home town, Umtata, Transkei, and live out an otherwise normal (apolitical) life, absent of the sort of ‘radicalism’ that the then disgruntled ANC had since adopted. Mandela, however, had other ideas. He explains in his autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom, a book he began writing in his prison cell in Robben Island, back in 1975 (the same year Charlize Theron was born – to give us perspective – and, perhaps more importantly, the infamous year that most Witnesses believed would mark the end of the world), the domestic situation he was confronted with:

‘My devotion to the ANC and the struggle was unremitting. This disturbed Evelyn. She had always assumed that politics was a youthful diversion, that I would someday return to the Transkei and practice there as a lawyer. Even as that possibility became remote, she never resigned herself to the fact that Johannesburg would be our home, or let go of the idea that we might move back to Umtata. She believed that once I was back in the Transkei, in the bosom of my family, acting as counselor to Sabata, I would no longer miss politics. She encouraged Daliwonga’s efforts to persuade me to come back to Umtata. We had many arguments about this, and I patiently explained to her that politics was not a distraction but my lifework, that it was an essential and fundamental part of my being. She could not accept this. A man and a woman who hold such different views of their respective roles in life cannot remain close.’[3]

Nelson Mandela - Long Walk To Freedom (1993)

Anyone who knows anything about Jehovah’s Witnesses will know that they shy away from political affairs. The basic idea behind this stance is that they believe that Jesus is God’s duly appointed king, who was invisibly enthroned as such back in 1914, that his kingdom (‘government’) is destined to rule over all the earth in the fullest sense in the (undisclosed) near future, to the exclusion of all worldly governments; in fact, at such time, said kingdom is prophetically said to (indiscriminately) annihilate all governments of the world.[4]

Additionally, one will often hear Witnesses say that they are ‘no part of the world’; this is a statement borrowed from Jesus, as indicating separateness from worldly affairs,[5] a world (our world) that Witnesses believe is directly under the (provisional) influence and rulership of Satan, who, together with his minions, the fallen angels, was unceremoniously ousted from heaven back in 1914 by the newly enthroned Jesus, and, subsequently, confined to the vicinity of the earth; which is why the world is said to be experiencing degenerative turmoil – the prophetic ‘woe’ – emphatic since 1914, which, as we all know, was the commencement of WWI. This unpleasant situation is said to be the case because the ‘terrestrialised’ devil knows he has a short period of time (‘the Last Days’)[6] with which to torment mankind, essentially as an act of vengeance for having been given the boot by the ‘kicknificent’ Jesus.[7]

Such being the case, Witnesses consider themselves subjects of God’s kingdom, the very same government that the earthly Christ evidently taught his disciples to pray for: ‘[Let] thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.’[8] Thus, at their baptism, Witnesses (‘true Christians’) essentially cast their spiritual vote for that celestial government of which Christ is president, and to his assistance, the 144 000 persons shortlisted from mankind to rule with Christ in heaven.[9] Thus, for a Witness to vote at the local elections, immerse himself in politics, sing the national anthem, or, even, salute the flag, inter alia, would be considered quasi-treasonous acts; in fact, for any Christian church to actively mingle in politics – such as is peculiar with, for example, the Catholic church – is deemed a form of ‘spiritual adultery’ (‘committing fornication with the kings of the world’) as far as Witnesses are concerned.[10]

Mandela was a man of action, not the sort inclined to resign himself to an unfair situation, a trait he believes he inherited from his chieftain father, Gadla Henry Mphakanyiswa, of whom Mandela said he ‘possessed a proud rebelliousness, a stubborn sense of fairness, that I recognise in myself.’[11] Not surprising, perhaps, is that Mandela’s Xhosa name, Rolihlala (literally: ‘pulling branches’), has the basic sense of ‘troublemaker,’ a term which, no doubt, resonated with those who vigorously sought to maintain the political status quo of his day, attributing to him heretical titles as ‘communist’ and ‘terrorist.’

Thus, there was yet another element about Watchtower’s ideology that didn’t jell well with Mandela:

‘Over the course of the next year [1954] Evelyn became involved with the Watch Tower organization, part of the church of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Whether this was due to some dissatisfaction with her life at the time, I do not know. The Jehovah’s Witnesses took the Bible as the sole rule of faith and believed in a coming Armageddon between good and evil. Evelyn zealously began distributing their publication The Watchtower, and began to proselytize me as well, urging me to convert my commitment to the struggle to a commitment to God. Although I found some aspects of the Watch Tower’s system to be interesting and worthwhile, I could not and did not share her devotion. There was an obsessional element to it that put me off. From what I could discern, her faith taught passivity and submissiveness in the face of oppression, something I could not accept.’[12] [Italics mine]

And there we have it! Mandela had a sense of justice that spurred him to take positive action – even the use of force, where it was felt necessary – whereas Witnesses often promote a ‘chilax’ disposition, often quoting the likes of Romans 12:19 which states: ‘Do not avenge yourselves, beloved, but yield place to the wrath, for it is written: “Vengeance is mine; I will repay, says Jehovah.”’

It must be admitted, however, that the underlying principle behind that counsel is worthwhile, for, if you read that scripture in context, it promotes the achievement of peace: return evil for evil to no one; if your enemy is hungry feed him; do not let yourselves be conquered by the evil, but keep conquering evil with the good. (That said, history suggests that Mandela and his compatriots did, in principle, attempt that route, to a persistent degree at that… however, to no avail, until drastic actions were felt necessary).

As already mentioned, Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t believe in political activism or political reformation; as far as they’re concerned, these are the things that their God, Jehovah, will resolve in his own due time by means of the kingdom. The priority for Jehovah’s Witnesses, therefore, is the preaching of the Word (‘the Gospel’), primarily the ‘Good News’ of the kingdom.[13] Thus, the aforementioned ‘passivity and submissiveness in the face of oppression’ didn’t agree with Mandela.

When denouncing politics, it’s worth noting that Witnesses will often quote Jeremiah 10:23, which states that ‘it does not belong to man who is walking even to direct his own step.’ Thus, for mankind to rule himself is seen as, essentially, presumptions and unfitting. Reference will often be made to all the various forms of government that mankind has explored over the years: monarchs, aristocracy, despotism, communism, even the much lauded democracy, which, as they say, have all failed. Instead, they will advocate ‘theocracy,’ expressed through God’s kingdom with its perfect ruler, Christ.

It should be noted that Witnesses denounce violence and warfare, attributes that are, arguably, not uncommon in politics and revolutions. As conscientious objectors to warfare, Witnesses are known to refuse ‘draftment’ into the army, this, very often, leading to their imprisonment. In apartheid South Africa, for example, not a few (white) Witnesses were sent to DB (‘Detention Barracks’) for refusing the call, notwithstanding religious objection.

That said, in the early 50s, exhausted by passivism, Mandela began entertaining the possibility of a guerrilla warfare; he discreetly asked ANC member, Walter Sisulu, who was on his way to Bucharest for some international shindig, to make a detour to the People’s Republic of China[14] in order to explore the possibility of that nation supplying the ANC with artillery for an anticipated armed struggle.[15] In any event, Umkhonto we Sizwe (‘Spear of the Nation’), the military wing of the ANC, eventually came into being and was active as early as 1961, this, in response to the Sharpeville Massacre that took place the preceding year, where policemen shot and killed 69 people, injuring 180. Regarding the formation of Umkhonto we Sizwe in consequence of the aforementioned, the fugitived Mandela shortly informed a group of journalists that ‘[i]f the government reaction is to crush by naked force our non-violent struggle, we will have to reconsider our tactics. In my mind we are closing a chapter on this question of a non-violent policy.’

Now, ironically, while denouncing violence and warfare, the kingdom that Witnesses pray for will be marked by such violence as it establishes its dominion over the world; we are told that ‘it will crush and put an end to all these other kingdoms’, and that it will be preceded by ‘a great tribulation such as not occurred before, nor will occur again.’[16] Thus, such will be Armageddon (‘God’s war against the nations’). Of course, the difference between God’s war and, say, the Umkhonto we Sizwe war, is that God’s war is said to be just.

True, historically, greed may be the foundation to many a wars; but, I think it’s fair to say, not always. The Boer War in South Africa, for example, came about because the Afrikaners (‘Boers’) were ‘gatvol’ of colonial domination by the English; they wanted their freedom and independence from English imperialism; so, naturally, they felt justified in taking up arms. Now, ironically, the same Afrikaners, or, at least, those that happened to achieve political power, began exercising the same kind of domination against black South Africans that they themselves had resented and fought passionately against during the two Boer wars. So, now, fast-forward, the black South Africans, through, inter alia, the ANC (‘Umkhonto we Sizwe’), were also ‘gatvol’ of apartheid, craving self-determination; having exhausted various forms of peaceful resistance against the apartheid regime, their discontent towards this particular oppression escalated to the point where they felt justified in whipping out the heavy artillery. Of course, as sentiments go, the current ANC government is not without its own brand of oppression. And so the wheel turns.

It’s almost funny, really, the sequence of events, and the apparent repetition of history. Why, perhaps there is substance to what the Bible says, eh. Nevertheless, mankind has developed a maxim to justify military action, that is, in the face of unrelenting oppression, namely, the jus ad bellum theory (‘right to go to war’). This theory usually requires the satisfaction of a number of check-boxes before an all-out war is launched: they’re peeving us, tick; we’ve tried talking to them, tick; we’ve attempted non-forceful measures (i.e. boycotting, protesting etc.), tick; nothing is working, tick. A’ight, bring out the machine guns. It’s about to get real up in this here play.

So, it seems to me, now, that what constitutes a ‘just war’ is very often a matter of perspective: the war on terrorism; God’s war against the [wicked] nations; jihad. It all depends on which narrative you give audience to, eh. Thus – if I may be so bold – it appears that God and men are not very different in their outlook; the distinguishing factor, if any, is the level of power and authority.

Truth be told, while Mandela’s decisions, political and otherwise, reveal the makings of an imperfect man, I nevertheless find myself sympathetic to his overarching plight, for I, like most conscientious people I think, am that way inclined; that is, if I can do something to remedy an injustice, I quite prefer to do something, to take some remedial positive action (within the bounds of law, of course), rather than sit on my laurels and wait for some all-powerful benevolent hero to decide to come to our rescue – as Witnesses put it, to ‘wait on Jehovah’ or ‘leave things in Jehovah’s hands’ to resolve matters at his own (undisclosed) time. Phrrrrr. (Yes, true, it might reveal a lack of patience on my part, but hey).

In the face of something nefarious, resigning oneself to doing nothing when one can do something is not only frustrating, but almost unnatural; it’s emasculating; it’s infuriating, especially when the oppression is unrelenting in nature, the reprehensible and egregious sort that could make the likes of Mother Therese go all Rambo.

Noble as these broad ideals might tend to be, the mechanism of their achievement may not have been without fault. Nevertheless, as one newspaper put it: ‘[The] fascination with Mandela stems from the sense that he is on a par with others whose human shortcomings were overshadowed by their contributions to humanity.’ One aspect of such ‘human shortcoming’ did not particularly assist Mandela’s marriage.

‘I tried to persuade her of the necessity of the struggle, while she attempted to persuade me of the value of religious faith. When I would tell her that I was serving the nation, she would reply that serving God was above serving the nation. We were finding no common ground…’[17]

This unrelenting struggle between Mandelyn trickled over to their children as each parent, respectively, tried to make them either politically conscious or spiritually conscious:

‘We also waged a battle for the minds and hearts of the children. She wanted them to be religious, and I thought they should be political. She would take them to church [Kingdom Hall] at every opportunity and read them Watch Tower literature. She even gave the boys Watchtower pamphlets to distribute in the township. I used to talk politics to the boys. Thembi was a member of the Pioneers, the juvenile section of the ANC, so he was already politically cognizant. I would explain to Makgatho in the simplest terms how the black man was persecuted by the white man.’[18]

Thus, a case of two passionate parents, uncompromising in their respective ideologies. As they say in soccer: when an irresistible force meets an immovable object. No one was backing down; no one was winning.

‘Evelyn and I had irreconcilable differences. I could not give up my life in the struggle, and she could not live with my devotion to something other than herself and the family. She was [nevertheless] a very good woman, charming, strong, and faithful, and a fine mother.’[19]

However, more than just the religio-political debate, Mandela’s commitment to the ANC gave birth to yet another form of distress, the sort that has plagued marriages since the inception of that institution: issues of infidelity.

Evelyn thought him unfaithful – true or not true. Word has it that during her station in Durban, in 1953, where she spent several months at King Edward VII Hospital upgrading her nursing certificate via enrolment in a midwifery course, Mandela’s sister and mother remained with the kids at the couple’s marital home in Johannesburg, during which time, the ‘Madiba magic’ is a said to have spilt over onto ‘foreign soil.’ The grapevine has it that Mandela started an affair with Ruth Mompati, his secretary at his fledgling law firm, Mandela and Tambo, est. 1952, who is said to have lodged in the marital home in the absence of Evelyn. The (alleged) ‘home wrecker,’ Mompati, was then (allegedly) duly ousted by the indignant Evelyn upon her return, who (allegedly) threatened to pour boiling water over her for invading her marital home.[20] [laughing] (Disclaimer: Don’t mess with Xhosa women, eh).

If that wasn’t enough, Mandela was dogged by yet another rumour – true or not true – that he had a mistress in the person of Lilian Ngoyi, widow and prominent ANC member, who was seven years his senior.[21] Blah blah blah blah blah…

These events – true or not true – troubled Evelyn and put a strain on their marriage. Mandela explains:

‘My schedule in those days was relentless. I would leave the house very early in the morning and return late at night. After a day at the office, I would usually have meetings of one kind or another. Evelyn could not understand my meetings in the evening, and when I returned home late suspected I was seeing other women. Time after time, I would explain what meeting I was at, why I was there, and what was discussed. But she was not convinced. In 1955, she gave me an ultimatum: I had to choose between her and the ANC.’[22]

Both parties where unyielding. Evelyn’s ultimatum, regrettably, did not favour her in the end. Their marriage had seen better days.

‘After we [ANC members] were arrested in December [5, 1956] and kept in prison for two weeks, I had one visit from Evelyn. But when I came out of prison, I found that she had moved out and taken the children. I returned to an empty, silent house. She had even removed the curtains, and for some reason I found this small detail shattering. Evelyn had moved in with her brother, who told me, “Perhaps it is for the best; maybe when things will have cooled down you will come back together.” It was reasonable advice, but it was not to be.’[23]

I can picture a distraught and slightly irked Mandela walking into his vacant house, dumbfounded, and be like: ‘Eish, she even took the curtains, bantu bagithi, ey.’ (Well, if you know anything about Xhosa women and their strong constitu— O wait, my mother’s Xhosa; let me shut up right about now). *whistling*

Anyhow, I suspect I know why the detail of the missing curtains gripped him so intimately. There’s a sense of finality about it. No woman who has any intention of returning home (anytime soon) would task herself with taking the curtains with her. What is more, missing curtains are a conspicuous feature to outsiders, a detail which – especially in the township – would not be lost to his neighbours. Yep, something’s wrong in that house.

With Evelyn’s departure, it’s worth noting that Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t subscribe to divorce – notwithstanding reports to the contrary – save, on the ground of infidelity (‘adultery’).[24] Separation – as opposed to divorce – is permitted, but only under exceptional circumstances (i.e. physical abuse, refusal to provide for one’s family etc.). The book ‘Secret to Family Happiness‘ (1996) outlines some of the basic biblical prerequisites as Witnesses understand them.

Mandela was often gripped by the fact that his commitments to the ‘liberation struggle’ took time away from his wife and children. He once noted that ‘the wife of a freedom fighter is often like a widow, even when her husband is not in prison.’[25] Mandela was conflicted. His strong sense of liberation would not allow him to sit idle; yet, at the same time, it plagued him that his family bore the brunt of this ‘ambition.’

‘I had been spending insufficient time with my family and [my two-years-old daughter] Makaziwe’s request [to accompany me on my trip to Transkei] provoked pangs of guilt.’[26]

‘I wondered — not for the first time — whether one was ever justified in neglecting the welfare of one’s own family in order to fight for the welfare of others. Can there be anything more important than looking after one’s aging mother? Is politics merely a pretext for shirking one’s responsibilities, an excuse for not being able to provide in the way one wanted?’[27]

Now, that said, there is no indication that Mandela failed to provide materially for his family; yes, he may have been absent and he may have wished to provide better – as most parents, husbands, adults often wish – but there is no indication, at least so far as I can gather, that he left his family destitute or indigent. Back then, Mandela owned a car, which, first of all, was most unusual for a black man in those days, but also, he could apparently afford to operate it; that said, I can’t imagine that he utterly failed to provide materially for his family. (I stand to be corrected).

So – and without being insensitive or judgmental; purely for academic purposes – I’m curious to know as to precisely why the JW Evelyn chose to separate from her husband? Put differently, did she have a scriptural basis for doing so? Was it owing to Mandela’s chronic absence? Was it because his political gallivanting somehow endangered the family? Or was it squarely founded on the (alleged) infidelity? Perhaps, the net effect of all the above?

Well, if Mandela’s narrative is to be accepted, then Evelyn’s departure was owing to (irreconcilable) ideological differences… that were propelled, I submit, by allegations – true or unfounded – of his unfaithfulness.

Now, African culture and tradition aside,[28] if the unfaithfulness was true – and if Evelyn had any evidence thereof – then, as a Jehovah’s Witness, she was in a position to seek a divorce of the scriptural sort, which the congregation would recognise and duly sanction, if invoked. That said, that the JW Evelyn didn’t actually file for divorce is by no means itself an indication that there was no substance to the allegations. She may very well have entertained a hope that they would someday reconcile. Of course, as history indicates, that was not to be. Three years after the separation, 1958, Mandela filed for divorce.

According to an article in the Daily Mail, in Evelyn‘s divorce petition, she accredited her departure from the marital home to acts of domestic violence; ‘she accused Mandela of beating and throttling her, and even threatening to attack her with an axe, forcing her to flee from the marital home and stating that living with him “had become dangerous and intolerable.”‘ Mandela, of course, categorically denied these accusations.

Evelyn’s undying feelings on the subject, however, were articulated decades later when her husband was set for emancipation from his 27-year-long incarceration in, inter alia, Robben Island. According to British journalist, Fred Bridgland, Evelyn felt that the fanfare surrounding her former husband’s release from prison was being treated as the Second Coming of Christ: ‘How can a man who has committed adultery and left his wife and children be Christ? The whole world worships Nelson too much. He is only a man.’[29] Preach!

Now, I’m curious to know which adultery she’s referring to here; is it the adultery before the divorce, or is it the adultery in consequence of the divorce? What do I mean? With Jehovah’s Witnesses, things get technical; distinction should be made between legal divorce and scriptural divorce. Just because one can obtain the former doesn’t mean they qualify for the latter. As already mentioned, scriptural divorce can only be obtained by the innocent party where their spouse has proved unfaithful to the marriage bed. Meaning – if Evelyn’s narrative is true – then she could have sought a scriptural divorce, not Mandela. If Mandela is not eligible to obtain a scriptural divorce, but, nevertheless, obtains a legal divorce and then marries someone else (‘gets laid’) – as he eventually did, in the person of Winnie – then Mandela would be said to have committed adultery, in the biblical sense, notwithstanding the legality of the subsequent marriage. This reflects a conflict between man’s laws and God’s laws; when the such is the case, the latter trumps the former as far as Witnesses are concerned (‘we must accept God as ruler rather than men’).[30]

Well, now, the facts of that issue, I suppose, will forever remain a mystery; no one can say for sure, after all, what really takes place behind closed doors.


Finally, then, taking the abovementioned events into account, we need to contextualise them by drawing a timeline of the critical events that took place leading up to the introduction of the Watchtower into Evelyn’s life and her subsequent separation, and eventual divorce, from Mandela.

So, in the early 40s, Mandela became politically conscious; he met Evelyn in 1944, they fell in love and shortly got married (October 15, 1944); theirs was a Spartan wedding and poor beginning (financially). That same year, 1944, Mandela began his three-year articles with the law firm Witkin, Sidelsky and Eidelman. The couple got their first child, Thembekile, a son, in 1946; their second child, Makaziwe, daughter, born 1947, died mysteriously after nine months (‘meningitis’). By this time, Mandela had completed his three years of articles; he then enrolled as a fulltime LLB student at the University of Witwatersrand (‘Wits’) in order to qualify as an attorney. In 1948, the general elections in South Africa were won by D.F. Malan’s rejuvenised National Party, which party effectively conceived and codified apartheid. Mandela’s increasing devotion to politics and the ANC resulted in multiples failures of his final year at Wits; Wits finally denied him his degree in 1949. Mandela was subsequently appointed ANC Youth League President in 1950 (incidentally the same year that Scientology founder, L. Ron Hubbard, published ‘Dianetics’); that same year he fathered his third child, Makgatho, a son. In 1952 Mandela became a fully-fledged attorney, having taken a different route from the LLB; he passed his board exams. That same year, the first black law firm, Mandela and Tambo, was founded; also in that year, Mandela was involved in the (infamous) ‘Defiance Campaign,’ a large scale multi-party demonstration mobilised against the apartheid regime, for which he was sentenced nine months’ imprisonment with hard labour, for violating the Suppression of Communism Act; in that same year, he was also elected the first of a number of deputy presidents of the ANC. In 1953, Evelyn, who was already a qualified nurse, spent several months in Durban in pursuit of a midwifery certificate; it was around this time that she was introduced to the Watchtower.

During this time, it’s safe to say that Evelyn was not a happy woman; her husband’s general absence and political interventions, which often led to his imprisonment and banning, were a source of frustration for her; it was common between them that this strained their marriage. Incensed at the situation, as Mandela’s sister, Leabie, recalls ‘[Evelyn] didn’t want to hear a thing about politics.’[31]

I think it’s safe to say that, not only was Evelyn absent of any love for politics, but most likely accredited it for much of her domestic unhappiness, not least of which, arguably, were all the ANC ‘babes’ orbiting her husband in his time of absence from home. Why, Mandela was said to be a handsome fellow, whose charm resided, not only in his elocution, but also his ability to button a suit and own the dance floor. Tsotsi

And, then, somewhere in this saga, here came Jehovah’s Witnesses with their ideology: the Good News of God’s kingdom; how we are living in the Last Days of this wicked system of things; how God’s kingdom will eradicate all wickedness and social ills; how God’s kingdom will usher in a new system; how this degenerating wicked world will be turned into a utopia (‘paradise’) where people of all nations will live together peacefully in a non-racial and egalitarian society as one globally united and happy family; how everyone will get to build their own mansions (‘build houses and have occupancy’) and plant their own vineyards; how our dead loved ones will be brought back to life during the foretold resurrection, and, importantly, how only God’s kingdom – and not men and their political intervention – can achieve all of this.

Yes, this message must have resonated with Evelyn. This was positive affirmation for her that politics was unnecessary, that her gallivanting husband ought not waste his time in an endeavour that was, not only scripturally futile, but which, perhaps more importantly, deprived his fledgling family of his much needed presence. This religious message was a ‘guarantee’ to her that apartheid would not prevail indefinitely, as God’s kingdom would sort things out shortly. Indeed, profound joy must have welled up in her at the prospect of being reunited with her prematurely deceased child, Makaziwe, who would be brought back to life at the not-so-distant resurrection.[32]

Yes, I can almost see the unfolding of events; Evelyn was ripe for the picking when the Witnesses rocked up with this message. Evelyn was generally unhappy with her circumstances – and, perhaps, not unjustifiably so. Then the Witnesses came along with this fabulous message which not only vindicated her resentment for politics, but which emboldened her in that she now had ‘divine’ backing for her contestation.

I’ve since discovered that, when a person genuinely believes that they possess an indisputable truth about something (as most Witnesses generally feel) – especially a religious truth – of which they are convinced has divine backing; and add to that, a sense of urgency about it (‘we’re living in the Last Days’), then, that formula can very often ‘radicalise’ a person. Is it possible, then, that Evelyn was bolstered by this message, in as much as, say, Mandela was bolstered by his political convictions?

In 1954, with the birth of her fourth child (second daughter), Evelyn named her, Makaziwe (‘Maki’), in honour of her deceased daughter. It is said that Evelyn viewed this birth as a sign from God (I’d be curious to know in what sense precisely did she perceived this to be such a sign), and that, as such, got baptised as a Jehovah’s Witness. (As a side note, I’d be interested to know if Maki took to the Witnesses in her adult years, if she ever got baptised, or what her position is vis-à-vis her mother’s religion).

In 1955 the ‘Congress of the People,’ a gathering which was effectively a sequel of the ‘Defiance Campaign,’ took place, where the Freedom Charter was officially adopted. It was in that same year, recall, that Evelyn gave Mandela an ultimatum.

Then, in December 5, 1956, Mandela and several prominent ANC members were arrested by the apartheid government for what turned out to be two weeks; this, in connection with allegations of high treason, conspiracy to overthrown government and replace it with communism; when Mandela returned home from his two-week imprisonment, he found Evelyn – and his beloved curtains – gone. Shem.

Then, come 1958 (incidentally, the year of Michael Jackson’s birth), Mandela sought official divorce from Evelyn, at which time he married the young, beautiful, vivacious social worker, Winnie Madikizela, the two possessing what he and Evelyn lacked, namely, a shared commitment (to ‘the struggle’).

Mandela and Winnie

Mandela and Winnie on their wedding day (1958).


Thus, the struggle between Mandelyn, which led to their separation and eventual divorce, was more than just a typical domestic dispute; it is my view that while the discord may possess a banner that reads ‘UNFAITHFULNESS,’ this discord was, however, more profound than that; their marriage, I feel, served as a surrogate battleground between religion and politics, church and state. While the ANC propelled the former, the Witnesses propelled the latter. As both of these competing sides ingrained themselves into their respective subjects, it may have emboldened them to attain a type of moral high ground, that is, Mandela driven by a sense of nobility or justice, while Evelyn’s by a sense of divine truth. The incompatibility of their views, ultimately, culminated in their breakup as they gradually drifted apart.


[1] Fatima Meer Higher Than Hope: The Biography of Mandela (1990) p.(?).


[3] Nelson Mandela Long Walk to Freedom (1994) p.118.

[4] ‘In the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be brought to ruin. And the kingdom itself will not be passed on to any other people. It will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms, and it itself will stand to times indefinite.’ – Daniel 2:44.

[5] John 15:18, 19; 17:15, 16; 18:36.

[6] 2 Timothy 3:1-5.

[7] Revelation 12:17-9, 12.

[8] Matthew 6:9.

[9] Revelation14:1-4; 5:10; 20:6.

[10] Revelation 17:1, 2; compare James 4:4.

[11] Long Walk supra note 3 p.21.

[12] Ibid p.118.

[13] Mathew 24:14.

[14] At the time, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) was the de facto government of China while the Republic of China (ROC) (‘Taiwan’) was considered the de jure government of China, this, until 1971, when UN General Assembly Resolution 2758 flipped the roles.

[15] Long Walk supra note 3 p.93.

[16] Daniel 2:44; Matthew 24:21.

[17] Long Walk supra note 3 p.118.

[18] Ibid.

[19] Ibid.

[20] Martin Meredith Mandela: A Biography (2010) pp.103-4.

[21] David Smith Young Mandela (2010) pp.95-99; 105-6.

[22] Long Walk supra note 3 p.118.

[23] Ibid.

[24] Matthew 9:19.

[25] Long Walk supra note 3 p. 125.

[26] Ibid p.104.

[27] Ibid p.105.

[28] Polygamy was (is) part of the Xhosa culture, of which Mandela himself was a product thereof, having been born of a secondary wife, his mother, Nosekeni Fanny, who was the ‘Right Hand’ wife of his father’s harem of four. See Long Walk supra note 3 Chapter 1.

[29] Young Mandela supra note 21 p.59.

[30] Acts 4:19; 5:29.

[31] Anthony Sampson Mandela: The Authorised Biography (2011) p.36.

[32] John 5:28, 29.