Winnie Mandela: Homophobia and Dystopia in One of Achmat Dangor’s Forgotten Short Stories

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This article focuses on a transition-era short story by Achmat Dangor, “Mama & Kid Freedom” (1995, Index on Censorship 24 [3]: 108–13), which has thus far been wholly overlooked by literary scholars. The story depicts a political dystopia that is characterised by assassinations, arbitrary violence, and the mass incarceration of those deemed to be homosexual. There are also clear overlaps between the eponymous character Mama and Winnie Madikizela-Mandela. The story reproduces the binary tropes that surround Madikizela-Mandela and her then estranged husband, Nelson Mandela: whereas he is cast as the hero of the narrative of nation-building, she is cast as its villain. In this article, I argue that Dangor weaves a story that pulls together two particularly salient transition-era political discourses: Madikizela-Mandela as a homophobic and violent woman, and sexual rights as a bellwether of the country’s project of democratic modernity. The story evidences a homonationalist logic in which the recognition or non-recognition of sexual rights comes to be read as the axis on which post- apartheid democracy and human rights depend.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)23-36
Number of pages14
JournalEnglish Academy Review
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jan 2020


  • Achmat Dangor
  • Madikizela-Mandela
  • homonationalism
  • sexual rights
  • short story
  • transitional literature
  • “Mama & Kid Freedom”

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • History
  • Literature and Literary Theory


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