May 30, 2013

By CHRISTOPHER TORCHIA

Associated Press

 

Nelson Mandela, in the twilight of life, doesn’t talk much anymore, his eldest daughter says. But the former South African president, who wrote of his regret at being unable to devote himself to his family during the fight against apartheid and afterward, reaches out in another way.

“It’s the hand that he stretches out. It is the touching of the hand that speaks volumes for me. And for me, if you ask me what I would treasure, it is this moment that I treasure with my father,” said Makaziwe Mandela, the oldest of Mandela’s three surviving children, all daughters. “It means, ‘My child, I’m here.’ It means to me that, ‘I’m here. I love you. I care.’”

It could be the story of any family, this intimate encounter between an elderly parent beset by illness and a child with whom relations have, over many decades, been challenging or negligible. That the couple’s communication has be­come so elemental also sheds light on the fragile state of a larger-than-life figure, revered for his sacrifice during 27 years as a prisoner of apartheid and his peacemaking role in South Africa’s shift to a democracy inclusive of all races.

“My Dad has not been in good, perfect health over the past month. And he has good days and he has bad days,” Makaziwe Mandela said earlier this month in an exclusive interview with The Associated Press in her home, where a bust of her father, made from bronze and the wood of a railway tie, sits on a piano in the foyer.

One of those bad days was April 29, when state television broadcast footage of a visit by President Jacob Zuma and other leaders of the ruling African National Congress to Mandela, who had helmed the ANC, at his Johannesburg home. Zuma said Mandela was in good shape, but the footage — the first public images of Mandela in nearly a year — showed him silent and unresponsive, even when Zuma tried to hold his hand.

Makaziwe Mandela said her family is grateful that the “movement,” as she refers to the ANC leadership, still visits her father. The broadcasting of the video, however, was unfortunate, she said. Critics allege the ANC was trying to score political points by its association with Mandela. The party fiercely denies it.

“In previous visits, there was no need to take a picture. What happened this time, I don’t know,” said Makaziwe, a 59-year-old founder of a South African winemaking company that highlights two centuries of the family’s distinguished lineage in its branding. She is one of four children from her father’s first marriage to Evelyn Mase, which ended in divorce. The other three died — one in infancy, one in a car crash and one from an AIDS-related illness.

Makaziwe said the “dignity and privacy” of her father, also a father to the nation, is sometimes under threat, complaining that 20 journalists one day in May converged on her father’s home, where he receives medical treatment, after an ambulance left to fetch medicine from a hospital.

“This is really utter madness,” she said. “This thing that everybody has got to be the first one to hear when Nelson Mandela goes, it's not right. All of you will have your opportunity. You will get the news from the presidency at the right time.”

During Mandela’s recent hospitalization for pneumonia, which ended April 6, Zuma's office issued brief, regular updates on his health. On some past occasions, conflicting reports from the government contributed to mistrust between authorities and the media.

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, including Indian independence hero Mohan­das Gandhi and American civil rights leader Martin Luther King.

South Africa has held peaceful elections and is a major economic force in Africa, but struggles with high unemployment, crime and corruption. Nelson Mandela embodies a morality and unity of purpose that makes South Africans nostalgic for an earlier era of promise.

“He has something that people gravitate to, that they can hold to, that gives them hope,” said Makaziwe Mandela, comparing him to Mother Teresa. “That’s what Nelson Mandela has done, is to give people a better hope that, ‘I can be somebody. Life today can be better than yesterday.’”

Makaziwe’s home is in a comfortable suburb of Johannesburg that, as she pointed out, was barred to blacks in the apartheid era. Sculptures — a gift from Gabon, presents brought by a son returning from Sweden — lined a mantelpiece in the carpeted living room where she sat for the interview. Her daughter, Tukwini, worked in a nearby room on the “House of Mandela” wine business, which launched this year in the United States.

The Mandela name has lost some shine because of a legal dispute over control of two companies that pits Makaziwe and Zenani Dlamini, a daughter from Mandela’s second marriage to Winnie Mandela, against old associates of the Nobel Peace prize laureate, who has withdrawn from public life. The firms, directed by associates who say they were appointed at Mandela’s request, hold funds from the sale of handprint artwork by Mandela that is earmarked for eventual distribution to his family.

In the AP interview, Makaziwe Mandela would not discuss the court case.

She talked about the strain and stress of losing her siblings and having a charismatic father whose devotion to justice and equality came at the expense of his children.

“I’m sure now, in his twilight years, that he looks back and says, ‘You know, I could have done that differently,’” Makaziwe said. “He has regrets in life, mostly about his family. He was not there as a father. He tried the best way that he could when he came out of jail. But you understand that my father came out of jail and was swallowed up even before he became president. He never really had the time to truly be a father.”

In his autobiography “Long Walk to Freedom,” Nelson Mandela wrote wistfully of his inability to fulfill his role as a husband to Winnie Mandela during his incarceration, which ended in 1990. The couple divorced in 1996. He is now married to Graca Machel, the former first lady of Mozambique.

“When your life is the struggle, as mine was, there is little room left for family. That has always been my greatest regret, and the most painful aspect of the choice I made,” Mandela wrote.

Makaziwe Mandela said she relates to actress Jane Fonda, who wrote in a memoir about her troubled relationship with her father, actor Henry Fonda. “On Golden Pond,” the 1981 movie that starred both Fondas, also offered a bittersweet lesson in how a child can reach out to an elderly parent, even one who didn’t, or couldn’t, do enough.

“It is me who has to make an effort, to bridge the gap,” Makaziwe said. “To be there.”

Parent Category: ROOT
Category: News

May 30, 2013

(AP) — A Chicago man has been charged with killing a 6-month-old girl whose death earlier this year brought attention to gang violence on the city's South Side, prosecutors announced Monday.

Koman Willis, 34, is accused of killing the baby, who was shot on March 11 while sitting in her father’s lap in a minivan. Police say the baby’s father, Jonathan Watkins, was the intended target of the attack.

Willis is charged with first-degree murder and aggravated battery with a firearm, said Sally Daly, a spokeswoman for the Cook County State’s Attorney's Office. A bond hearing is scheduled for Tuesday.

Watkins, who has a lengthy criminal record, was seriously wounded in the shooting.

Chicago police devoted large numbers of resources to finding a suspect in the shooting, which happened in the middle of the day in the city’s Woodlawn neighborhood.

In March, police Superintendent Garry McCarthy had said Watkins was cooperating with the investigation but that there was “a lot more” help he could provide.

At the girl’s funeral, several people lamented the “code of silence” that keeps some residents from reporting crimes, cooperating with authorities or even fingering members of rival gangs who have targeted them.

Religious leaders speaking at the funeral service implored those in attendance to transform gang-riven neighborhoods.

The shooting came just weeks after a 15-year-old honors student was gunned down on a South Side street in an apparent case of mistaken identity.

Parent Category: ROOT
Category: News

May 23, 2013

Special to the NNPA from The Michigan Chronicle

Retired postal worker Melvyn Wilson is probably one of the luckiest men on earth, because on Wednesday, he picked up his fourth winning lottery check, and this time, it was for a whopping $500,000, reports The Washington Times.

The Woodbridge, Va., resident, who has won more than $2 million, first hit the lotto jackpot back in 2004, when a scratch card fetched him $25,000.

Just one year later, Wilson struck it rich, yet again!

Two more lottery scratch cards resulted in Wilson receiving a $1 million win on one and a $500,000 prize on the other.

Two years after his last lotto windfall, Wilson decided to call it quits at the post office.

Now nearly eight years since his last big win, Wilson remains cool as a cucumber and almost appears unfazed by the excitement that a fourth win should generate.  Wilson told lottery officials as he claimed his check for $500,000, “‘I’m just in the right place at the right time.”

The 72-year-old retiree admits that he is “in it to win it’ and plans on continuing to play the lottery.  Wilson believes he has a chance at winning Thursday’s Powerball, which is now at a jackpot of $360 million.

The record high for a jackpot is $656 million.

Parent Category: ROOT
Category: News

May 30, 2013

City News Service

 

The coroner's office today released the name of an 11-year-old boy stabbed to death in a family dispute inside a Westlake District apartment. He was Jai Shaun Lewis, coroner's Lt. Joe Bale said. The boy's accused attacker, his 26-year-old stepfather, who was also injured, remained under guard at County USC Medical Center, awaiting a doctor's clearance to be released from the hospital and booked on charges in connection with the boy's death, said Sgt. Melvin Gamble of the Los Angeles Police Department's Rampart Station.

The homicide took place inside a Westlake District apartment at 227 S. Carondelet St. and was reported just before 9 a.m. Monday, said LAPD Sgt. Michael Mabie of the Rampart Station.

 ``An 11-year-old boy has died from his stab wounds and we have his attacker, a 26-year-old man, in custody now,'' Mabie said.

 LAPD spokeswoman Norma Eisenman told City News Service the suspect is the boy's stepfather. Eisenman said she did not know what triggered the violence between the man and the boy. Neighbors told reporters that they heard an argument, and then screams from the boy's mother from the upper floor of the two-story building, in a densely populated neighborhood northwest of MacArthur Park. The boy was in cardiac arrest when he was transported from the scene by paramedics and died at Children's Hospital Los Angeles. His stepfather was injured in the struggle with the boy and taken to County USC for treatment, according to Mabie and Eisenman. His name was not expected to be released until he is booked.

Parent Category: ROOT
Category: News

May 23, 2013

City News Service

 

A Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy pleaded not guilty this week to assaulting an inmate in the back of a patrol car, a charge brought nearly two years after the alleged incident occurred. Matthew John Funicello, 31, is accused of hitting Dewayne Wright, who was then 19, several times with his fist on July 22, 2011. Wright was being moved from the sheriff's Palmdale station to the Twin Towers Correctional Facility downtown at the time. Funicello was booked at the Crescenta Valley Station in April, when the felony charge of assault under color of authority was filed, and released on $35,000 bail.

He appeared today in a dark pin-striped suit rather than his uniform.

“Every deputy charged with a felony is relieved of duty without pay” pending the outcome of their case, said defense attorney Vicki Podberesky, when asked about her client’s employment status. Funicello is due back in court June 19, when a date is scheduled to be set for a preliminary hearing to determine whether there is enough evidence for him to proceed to trial. If convicted, he faces up to three years behind bars, according to the District Attorney’s Office.

Parent Category: ROOT
Category: News

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