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Abstract

This chapter examines the way that the relationship between gender, family, and violence in the iconography of the antiapartheid struggle is prefigured by a particular politics of time. By promising the arrival of the future in the present, revolutionary narrative authorizes an economy of violence whose objects, consequences, and significations it cannot ultimately control. This effect, the “Saturnine moment,” disrupted the struggle’s promise to create a new future by calling into question the meaning of the struggle itself. These themes are explored through discussions of public images of the death and funeral of legendary antiapartheid activist Dr. Abu Baker “Hurley” Asvat and the alleged role of Winnie Madikizela-Mandela in his assassination.

It’s a conception of time that can only pave the way for the politics of destruction.

—Achille Mbembe

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Notes

  1. 1.

    The biographical information on Asvat in this chapter is drawn from Jon Soske, “The Life and Death of Dr Abu Baker ‘Hurley’ Asvat, 23 February 1943 to 27 January 1989,” African Studies 70.3 (2011): 337–58. After her public separation from Nelson Mandela, Winnie began to use a hyphenated combination of her maiden and married names, Madizikela-Mandela. For consistency and accuracy, I have used her name at the time of the events when writing about the 1970s and 1980s.

  2. 2.

    For a full account of these events, see Anné Mariè du Preez Bezdrob, Winnie Mandela: A Life (Penguin Random House South Africa, 2005), 226–37.

  3. 3.

    Helena Pohlandt-McCormick, “Controlling Woman: Winnie Mandela and the 1976 Soweto Uprising,” The International Journal of African Historical Studies 33. 3 (2000): 585–614. For a related argument regarding the period covered in the present chapter, see Shireen Hassim. “Not Just Nelson’s Wife: Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, Violence and Radicalism in South Africa,” Journal of Southern African Studies 44. 5 (2018): 895–912.

  4. 4.

    Joy Shan, “The Return of Winnie Mandela,” Africa is a Country, 20 December 2015, http://africasacountry.com/2015/12/the-return-of-winnie-mandela/ Since Madikizela-Mandela’s death in April 2018, a new generation of writers have sought to recuperate Madikizela-Mandela, celebrating her radicalism and her powerful construction and mobilization of African womanhood. The most powerful of these treatments is Sisonke Msimang, The Resurrection of Winnie Mandela (La Vergne: Jonathan Ball Publishers, 2018).

  5. 5.

    Lynn Hunt, Family Romance of the French Revolution (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992), xiii.

  6. 6.

    Gay Seidman, “‘No Freedom without the Women’: Mobilization and Gender in South Africa, 1970–1992,” Signs 18. 2 (1993): 291–320; Natasha Erlank, “Gender and Masculinity in South African Nationalist Discourse, 1912–1950,” Feminist Studies 29.3 (2003): 653–71; Shireen Hassim, Women’s Organizations and Democracy in South Africa: Contesting Authority (Madison: Wisconsin Press, 2006).

  7. 7.

    For the centrality of the regulation of gender and family roles to apartheid, see Mark Hunter, Love in the Time of AIDS: Inequality, Gender, and Rights in South Africa (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2010); Philip Bonner, “Fragmentation and Cohesion in the ANC: The First 70 Years,” in eds. Lissoni et al. One Hundred Years of the ANC: Debating Liberation Histories Today (Johannesburg: Wits University Press, 2012): 1–12.

  8. 8.

    I use Michel Foucault’s term “counter-conduct” here, rather than resistance, in order to emphasize both how they were embedded within the apartheid socio-spatial landscape that they opposed as well as their positive function in producing new oppositional practices, behaviors, and formations with their own logic. For an exploration of this idea, see Michelle Murphy, Seizing the Means of Reproduction: Entanglements of Feminism, Health, and Technoscience (Durham: Duke University Press, 2012), 183–4.

  9. 9.

    Soske, “The Life and Death of Dr Abu Baker ‘Hurley’ Asvat”: 343–5.

  10. 10.

    This analysis draws on Jon Soske, “Open Secrets, Off the Record: Audience, Intimate Knowledge, and the Crisis of the Post-Apartheid State,” Historical Reflections 38.2 (2012): 62–3.

  11. 11.

    Ciraj Rassool, “The Individual, Auto/biography and History in South Africa,” PhD diss., University of the Western Cape, 2004. For the language of family in the liberation struggle, see Raymond Suttner, The ANC Underground in South Africa (Auckland Park: Jacana Media, 2008).

  12. 12.

    Jon Soske, “Navigating difference: Gender, Miscegenation and Indian Domestic Space in Twentieth-Century Durban,” in Pamila Gupta, Isabel Hofmeyr, and Michael Pearson, eds., Eyes Across the Water: Navigating the Indian Ocean (Pretoria: UNISA Press, 2010), 197–219.

  13. 13.

    Matei Calinescu, Five Faces of Modernity: Modernism, Avant-garde, Decadence, Kitsch, Postmodernism (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1987); Karl Löwith, From Hegel to Nietzsche: The Revolution in Nineteenth Century Thought, trans. David E. Green (New York: Columbia University Press, 1991).

  14. 14.

    It should be underscored that this analysis concerns only one of the several forms of temporality that either emerge in revolutionary situations or structure particular traditions of revolutionary theory. Other temporalities include: the Bakhtinian sense of carnival characteristic or popular insurrections; the hope of restoration that animates some forms of peasant and religious radicalism; the wager with destiny made by the revolution as gambler; the nihilistic desire for total destruction.

  15. 15.

    See Friedrich Reinecke, Historicism: The Rise of a New Historical Outlook, trans. J.E. Anderson (New York: Herder and Herder, 1972).

  16. 16.

    For an elaboration of this point, see Koselleck, 54–5.

  17. 17.

    Francois Mignet, Histoire de la Revolution francaise depuis 1789 jusqu’en 1814, troisième at seule édition (Bruxelles: Aug. Wahlen, 1824), 252. My translation.

  18. 18.

    Georg Büchner, Danton’s Death, Leonce and Lena, Woyzeck, edited and trans. Victor Price (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998).

  19. 19.

    Thomas Carlyle, The French Revolution: A History, volume 3 (Boston: Dana Estes & Company, 1884), 204.

  20. 20.

    Albert Boime, Art in an Age of Counterrevolution, 1815–1848 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2004), 113–5.

  21. 21.

    For a critical account, see Daniel Bensaïd, “Alain Badiou and the Miracle of the Event,” in Think Again: Alain Badiou and the Future of Philosophy, ed. Peter Hallward (New York: Continuum, 2004), 94–105.

  22. 22.

    Prasenjit Duara, Rescuing History from the Nation: Questioning Narratives of Modern China (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996), 5.

  23. 23.

    For this conception of non-human agency, see Bruno Latour, Reassembling the Social: An Introduction to Actor-Network-Theory (Oxford: Oxford university press, 2005), 54 and 71.

  24. 24.

    Karl Marx, Capital: A Critique of Political Economy, vol. 1, trans. trans. Ben Fowkes (London: Penguin, 1976), 776.

  25. 25.

    Reinhart Koselleck, “Historical Criteria of the Modern Concept of Revolution” in Futures Past: On the Semantics of Historical Time (New York: Columbia University Press, 2004), 56.

  26. 26.

    For a comparative study of the dynamics of revolutionary violence, see Arno Mayer, The Furies: Violence and Terror in the French and Russian Revolutions (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2000).

  27. 27.

    Isaac Deutscher, The Prophet Armed: Trotsky, 1879–1921 (Oxford: Oxford University Press: 1954), 338–9. Deutscher is analyzing the dynamic created by repression instituted by a victorious revolutionary regime; I have adapted his analysis to the dynamics of a prolonged insurrectionary situation.

  28. 28.

    This idea of horror as the disintegration of boundaries is discussed in Talal Asad, On Suicide Bombing: (New York: Columbia University Press, 2007), 68.

  29. 29.

    I want to thank Kimberly Manning for discussions about the concept of party-family. See her forthcoming book, Authoritarian Attachments: Party Families and the Gendered Origins of Chinese State Power.

  30. 30.

    Monica Eileen Patterson, “Constructions of Childhood in Apartheid’s Last Decades,” PhD diss., The University of Michigan, 2009, 47–54.

  31. 31.

    Chimurenga Magazine subsequently printed the photograph as part of an obituary to mark the unremembered anniversary of Asvat’s death. See Jon Soske, “A Doctor of People and Principle,” Chimurenga 16 (2011).

  32. 32.

    “Bodyguard Accuses Madikizela-Mandela,” Washington Post, 4 December 1997.

  33. 33.

    “Asvat Accusations Depraved and Cruel, Says Winnie,” South African Press Association, 9 September 1997. http://www.justice.gov.za/trc/media%5C1997%5C9709/s970909g.htm

  34. 34.

    Anthony Marx, Lessons of Struggle: South African internal opposition, 1960–1990 (Oxford: Oxford University Press on Demand, 1992), 123.

  35. 35.

    SM Mangera also writes about her and father’s (one of Asvat’s closest friends) reactions in her MA thesis. See “Remembering Fietas,” MA Wits University, 2008.

  36. 36.

    For the importance of this event, see Console Tleane, “Is There Any Future in the Past? A Critique of the Freedom Charter in the Era of Neoliberalism” in Articulations: A Harold Wolpe Memorial Lecture Collection, ed. Amanda Alexander (Trenton: Africa World Press, 2006), 157–180.

  37. 37.

    For a brief account, see Nomavenda Mathiane, “The Deadly Duel of the Wararas and the Zims-Zims,” in Tom Lodge and Bill Nasson, eds., All, Here, and Now: Black Politics in South Africa in the 1980s (Cape Town: Ford Foundation and David Philip, 1991), 279–82.

  38. 38.

    It is remarkable that the most detailed discussion of these events remains Rian Malan, My Traitor’s Heart (New York: Random House, 1991), 246–70.

  39. 39.

    For a sympathetic discussion of Mandela during this period, see Bezdrob, Winnie Mandela, 217–225.

  40. 40.

    For a general account of this period, see Nomavenda Mathiane, Beyond the Headlines: Truths of Soweto life (Johannesburg: Southern Book Publishers. 1990); and for a sensitive discussion of class and education, see Jacob Dlamini, Native Nostalgia (Cape Town: Jacana, 2011), 77–94.

  41. 41.

    Quoted in Mathiane, Beyond the Headlines, 123.

  42. 42.

    Interview with MW, Soweto, 13 February 2010. According to Bezdrob, it was a Mandela sister who was raped and the attackers were retaliating against the Football Club’s previous retaliation. See Winnie Mandela, 223.

  43. 43.

    Mathiane, Beyond the Headlines, 123.

  44. 44.

    Interview with Nomavenda Mathiane, Johannesburg, 21 January 2010.

  45. 45.

    Personal communication, Elinor Sisulu; “Sisulu, A Life Well Lived,” Sunday Independent, 6 June 2011. http://www.iol.co.za/sundayindependent/sisulu-a-life-well-lived-1079205

  46. 46.

    Elinor Sisulu, Walter & Albertina Sisulu: In Our Time (Cape Town: David Phillip, 2002.), 442–3.

  47. 47.

    Personal communication Elinor Sisulu; Antjie Krog, Country of My Skull: Guilt, Sorrow, and the Limits of Forgiveness in the New South Africa (New York: Three Rivers Press, 2000), 384–8.

  48. 48.

    For the convention of return, see Ato Quayson, “Winnie’s Penelope: On Solitude and the Comfort of Strangers,” Arcade, 8 February 2014. http://arcade.stanford.edu/blogs/winnie’s-penelope-solitude-and-comfort-strangers

  49. 49.

    For a general discussion of banning, see Saleem Badat, The Forgotten People: Political Banishment Under Apartheid (London: Brill, 2013).

  50. 50.

    Njabulo Ndebele, The Cry of Winnie Mandela: A Novel (New Africa Books, 2003). Ndebele’s elision of Asvat from this account deserves its own essay.

  51. 51.

    Löwith, From Hegel to Nietzsche, 26–9.

  52. 52.

    François Furet, Revolutionary France 1770–1880 (Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 1995); Eric Hobsbawm, The Age of Revolution: Europe 1789–1848 (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1962).

  53. 53.

    Koselleck, “Modernity and the Planes of Historicity” in Futures Past: On the Semantics of Historical Time (New York: Columbia University Press, 2004), 23.

  54. 54.

    Jacques Derrida, Specters of Marx: The State of the Debt, the Work of Mourning and the New International, trans. Peggy Kamuf (New York: Routledge, 1994). See also Koselleck, 23.

  55. 55.

    Nelson Mandela to Zohra Asvat, 14 February 1989. Letter in Zohra Asvat’s possession.

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Soske, J. (2021). The Family Romance of the South African Revolution. In: Arunima, G., Hayes, P., Lalu, P. (eds) Love and Revolution in the Twentieth-Century Colonial and Postcolonial World. Palgrave Studies in the History of Social Movements. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-79580-1_7

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