frontline: the long walk of nelson mandela
husband & lover

Wolfie Kodesh INTERVIEW EXCERPT

An ANC member, he helped hide the fugitive Mandela and arranged meetings with his colleagues and family.
You obviously saw Nelson and Winnie together quite a lot and you facilitated their more private moments ... What can you tell me about the way that they related? Was it a great love affair?

Oh, yes. That's one thing that he used to talk to me about, when we weren't talking pure politics, which was amazing. He would tell me how he missed Winnie and the children. He got married to her in 1959, I think it was, and in all that time ... he was always moving around, going places and so on, and he'd always talk about how bad he felt at not seeing her. So that we arranged several ... I must have arranged at least three or four different meetings for him and Winnie ...

How were they together? Was it moving?

Oh, yes ... he was very much in love with her. There is no question about that. I think it hurt him a great deal, but you see, this is what he did ... he valued family life. There is no question about it. And his insistence on education became almost obsessive with him. You had to be educated and things like that. But he felt that he should be there. It's a custom, particularly of Africans, to be with their families and he's the head of the house and all this type of thing. And here he was failing in this duty, and we used to discuss it quite a lot.

Then he decided, not because of the discussion with me, but he then decided well, these are two different matters. One is your dedication to the movement, which was supreme as far as he was concerned. But that didn't diminish his dedication to his family, which was another sort of matter, if you can understand that. It seems a bit Irish, but ... that's the way he felt ... you had to be dedicated, and I remember he used to sort of go like this, and say once you've dedicated yourself you have to have like [blinders] and ... you'll have enemies and friends, whether they agree with you or don't, but you have to stick to that ultimate ambition of yours. That is to free South Africa, of course. One must say about him, that I don't think anyone was more dedicated than that man, in spite of all the emotional, as well as political, criticisms that were made at times.

Can you remember anything in more detail about those kind of conversations you had with Nelson about the wife, about the children?

... well, just like a father, he would want to know how the children were, and especially about Winnie, how she was coping ... I suppose ... she must have told him that she was finding it difficult. I don't know.

I can't go into all the details, except to say this, that there was no question about it, that the man was heartbroken about it, and if ever you found any emotion on that sort of side, it was always about his family, and that he was letting them down. And ... there's no way in which he wasn't going to let them down, because of his politics. It was a difficult situation for him, and a very, very emotional one.

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