innie Mandela, the wife of imprisoned black nationalist leader Nelson Mandela, seems to accept with equanimity the renewal last week of her banishment to this small town.
But for Brandfort, whose black and white communities already have felt the impact of her stay, the extension is another matter.
The government sent her here after the Soweto riots five years ago, and it extended the banishment Tuesday for another five years. Her role in Soweto had centered on founding the powerful, now-banned Black Parents' Association; the government alleged that she had encouraged students to confront the police.
Also extended was a banning order, first imposed 20 years ago, prohibiting her from meeting with more than one person at a time or from being quoted in South Africa.
The government has never secured a major conviction against Winnie Mandela despite its extensive security laws--she was charged under the Terrorism Act in 1970, but acquitted, and she received a six-month suspended sentence in 1978 in the face of a potential 15-year penalty for participating in a "social gathering" in violation of her banning order.
Nevertheless, the government has subjected her to restrictions, arrests, detention and harassment for nearly half her life.
Since she married in 1958, not a year has passed without her being arrested. She and her husband, leader of the banned African National Congress, have been together for fragmented spells totaling only four months. For the rest of the time, one or the other has been in jail or in hiding.
Nelson Mandela, now 63, is serving a life sentence on Robben Island, far to the south of this central region, on a charge of sabotage. They were even split up by an arrest before they could reach their own wedding reception, and she still has her wedding cake, uncut, in a box at home.
For Winnie Mandela, 47, the banishment order has been the harshest restriction of all. It cut her off from home, family and friends in Johannesburg and put her in this small town 300 miles away in Orange Free State, the rural heartland of white Afrikaner conservatism where blacks are cowed, and she could not even speak their language.
She said during a New Year's Eve interview that she feared the experience might have permanently scarred her daughter Zinzi, 20, who stayed with her for a time but is now in Swaziland.
For herself, Mandela dismissed the renewal of the banishment order with a shrug. But the townsfolk of Brandfort are concerned, for life has not been quite the same since she arrived.
Mandela has stirred things up. She has pointedly ignored separate entrances and segregation signs in town. She has kept whites waiting while she uses "their" public telephone at the post office. She has marched into the little dress shop and tried on dresses in the only change room they have.
Brandfort even had a few small strikes last year, almost unheard of in such a small, conservative community. One was at the bakery and another by the night-soil removers--not all the town has sewerage. And the young men are refusing to work for local farmers for 50 cents a day, as they have done for years.
"I have spoken to them. They have been 'conscientized,' " Mandela said, using the word in vogue among African nationalists for "politicized."
There has been no clash between Mandela and the local whites. They resisted her coming. Protests to the government included one from the first president of the republic, C.R. Swart, who has a farm in the district and regarded her being sent here as a personal affront.
But once she arrived they did not confront her. Even when she broke the racial barriers, they did nothing.
"They seemed petrified of me," said Mandela. "There was this Communist come to live in their town. They just didn't know how to handle it. I seem to symbolize some terrible threat to them, to bring out the deep fear the Afrikaner has of his extinction. I never realized how deeply embedded this fear was in the Afrikaner until I came here."
"Yes, people were unhappy when she came here," says Mayor Jurie Erwee, who runs a hotel and liquor store. "But we have got used to her. We accept her now. She is clean and well-behaved. She comes in here to buy things: champagne, Cinzano, stuff like that. I've spoken to her, and she's well-educated."
Piet de Waal, the only lawyer in town, is one of the few whites who has had any kind of relationship with her. Under Law Society rules, he was obliged to attend to her legal requirements if asked. He did not much like the idea and called on the police to assure them he was only doing his duty.
But over the five years, he and his wife, Adele, have succumbed to Mandela's charm and considerable personality.
"We have become quite friendly," he acknowledged. "I tell you, I've learned a few things from knowing her, and I've come to understand her point of view on some matters."
Mandela's life is devoted to the black community in the "location," out of sight behind a small hill, where she lives in a three-room house.
Appalled by the malnutrition there, she started a gardening project. Now cabbages and beans grow around every matchbox house, and the community's diet has been transformed.
There was no clinic, so Mandela, a qualified medical social worker, started a first-aid and baby-care advice service. She also has gathered delinquent teen-agers into her care, visiting them regularly, providing about 30 with books and making sure that they go to school.
Mandela's banishment order restricts her to her house at night and over weekends, and prohibits her from receiving anyone inside the house other than her doctor and her lawyer.
To enforce this, the police at first kept a 24-hour watch from a car parked outside. Later they withdrew to the hill and watched through binoculars.
Mandela is allowed to visit her husband twice a month for 45 minutes. With a glass panel between them, they talk through a monitored telephone connection.
Because of the cost of flying--the authorities will not allow her to go by train--she cannot go that often.
"I look forward to the visits so much," she said, "but the trip back is awful. I feel so empty. Look, I'm confident he will come off the island one day. I have no doubt about that. But I can't help thinking of all these years of our lives that are going down the drain, our best years.
"Nelson is 63 now, and I am like a young girl, still longing for the experience of married life."