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Madikizela-Mandela in 2014
|Member of the South African Parliament|
9 May 2009 – 2 April 2018
|Deputy Minister of Arts, Culture, Science and Technology|
|Preceded by||Position established|
Nomzamo Winifred Zanyiwe Madikizela|
26 September 1936
Mbizana, Pondoland, South Africa
2 April 2018 (aged 81)|
Johannesburg, South Africa
|Resting place||Fourways Memorial Park Cemetery|
(m. 1958; div. 1996)
Zenani (b. 1959)|
Zindziwa (b. 1960)
Jan H. Hofmeyr School of Social Work|
University of the Witwatersrand
|Part of a series on|
Winnie Madikizela-Mandela OLS MP (born Nomzamo Winifred Zanyiwe Madikizela; 26 September 1936 – 2 April 2018), also known as Winnie Mandela, was a South African anti-apartheid activist and politician, and the ex-wife of Nelson Mandela. She served as a Member of Parliament from 1994 to 2003, and from 2009 until her death, and was a deputy minister from 1994 to 1996. A member of the African National Congress (ANC) political party, she served on the ANC's National Executive Committee and headed its Women's League. Madikizela-Mandela was known to her supporters as the "Mother of the Nation".
Born to a Mpondo family in Bizana, and a qualified social worker, she married anti-apartheid activist Nelson Mandela in Johannesburg in 1958; they remained married for 38 years and had two children together. In 1963, after Mandela was imprisoned following the Rivonia Trial; she became his public face during the 27 years he spent in jail. During that period, she rose to prominence within the domestic anti-apartheid movement. She was detained by apartheid state security services on various occasions, tortured subjected to banning orders, banished to a rural town, and spent several months in solitary confinement.
In the mid-1980s Madikizela-Mandela was accused of exerting a "reign of terror", and was "at the centre of an orgy of violence" in Soweto, which led to condemnation by the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa, and a rebuke by the ANC in exile. During this period, her home was burned down by residents of Soweto. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) established by Nelson Mandela's government to investigate human rights abuses found Madikizela-Mandela to have been "politically and morally accountable for the gross violations of human rights committed by the "Mandela United Football Club", her security detail. Madikizela-Mandela was accused of endorsing the necklacing of alleged police informers and apartheid government collaborators, and individuals within her security detail carried out the kidnapping, torture, and murder of such individuals, most notoriously the killing of 14-year-old Stompie Sepei whose kidnapping she was convicted of.
Nelson Mandela was released from prison on 11 February 1990, and the couple separated in 1992; their divorce was finalised in March 1996. She visited him during his final illness. As a senior ANC figure, she took part in the post-apartheid ANC government, although she was dismissed from her post amid allegations of corruption. In 2003, she was convicted of theft and fraud. She temporarily withdrew from active politics before returning several years later.
Madikizela-Mandela's Xhosa name was Nomzamo ("She who tries"). She was born in the village of Mbongweni, Bizana, Pondoland, in what is now the Eastern Cape province. She was the fifth of nine children, seven sisters and a brother. Her parents, Columbus and Gertrude, who had a white father, and Xhosa mother, were both teachers. Columbus was a history teacher and a headmaster, and Gertrude was a domestic science teacher. Gertrude died when Winnie was nine years old, resulting in the break-up of her family when the siblings were sent to live with different relatives.[not in citation given] Madikizela-Mandela went on to become the head girl at her high school in Bizana.
Upon leaving school, she went to Johannesburg to study social work at the Jan Hofmeyr School of Social Work. She earned a degree in social work in 1956, and several years later earned a bachelor's degree in international relations from the University of the Witwatersrand. She held a number of jobs in various parts of what was then the Bantustan of Transkei; including with the Transkei government, living at various points of time at Bizana, Shawbury and Johannesburg. Her first job was as a social worker at Baragwanath Hospital in Soweto.
She was 22 years old and standing at a bus stop in Soweto when Mandela first saw her and charmed her, securing a lunch date the following week. The couple married in 1958 and had two daughters, Zenani (born 1958) and Zindziwa (born 1960). Mandela was arrested and jailed in 1963, and was not released until 1990.
The couple separated in 1992. They finalised their divorce in March 1996 with an unspecified out-of-court settlement. During the divorce hearing, Nelson Mandela rejected Madikizela-Mandela's assertion that arbitration could salvage the marriage, and cited her infidelity as a cause of the divorce, saying "... I am determined to get rid of the marriage". Her attempt to obtain a settlement up to US$5million (R70 million) — half of what she claimed her ex-husband was worth — was dismissed when she failed to appear in court for a settlement hearing.
When asked in a 1994 interview about the possibility of reconciliation, she said: "I am not fighting to be the country's First Lady. In fact, I am not the sort of person to carry beautiful flowers and be an ornament to everyone."
Madikizela-Mandela was involved in a lawsuit at the time of her death, claiming that she was entitled to Mandela's homestead in Qunu, through customary law, despite her divorce from Nelson Mandela in 1996. Her case was dismissed by the Mthatha High Court in 2016, and she was reportedly preparing to appeal to the Constitutional Court at the time of her death, after failing at the Supreme Court of Appeal in January 2018.
Winnie Mandela emerged as a leading opponent of apartheid during the latter part of her husband's imprisonment. Due to her political activities, she was regularly detained by the National Party government. She was subjected to house arrest, kept under surveillance, imprisoned, and banished to the remote town of Brandford.
Her longest jailing was for 491 days (as noted in her account 491 Days: Prisoner Number 1323/69), beginning on May 12, 1969, at Pretoria Central Prison, where she spent months in solitary confinement, and was tortured and beaten. By her own account, Winnie Mandela's experience in prison "hardened" her.
From 1977 to 1985, she was banished to the town of Brandfort in the Orange Free State and confined to the area, except for when she was allowed to visit her husband at Robben Island. It was at this time that Winnie Mandela became well known in the Western world. She organised a creche with an NGO, Operation Hunger and a clinic in Brandfort with Dr Abu Baker Asvat, her personal physician, campaigned actively for equal rights and was promoted by the ANC as a symbol of their struggle against apartheid. While in exile in Brandfort, she, and those who attempted to assist her, were harassed by the apartheid police.
In the context of the global struggle for the release of political prisoners in our country, our movement took a deliberate decision to profile Nelson Mandela as the representative personality of these prisoners, and therefore to use his personal political biography, including the persecution of his then wife, Winnie Mandela, dramatically to present to the world and the South African community the brutality of the apartheid system.
During a speech in Munsieville on 13 April 1986, Winnie Mandela endorsed the practice of necklacing (burning people alive using tyres and petrol) by saying: "With our boxes of matches and our necklaces we shall liberate this country." Further tarnishing her reputation were accusations by her bodyguard, Jerry Musivuzi Richardson, and others, at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, that she had ordered kidnapping and murder during the second half of the 1980s.
Winnie Mandela returned to Soweto from Brandfort in late 1985, in defiance of a banning order. During Winnie Mandela's banishment, the United Democratic Front (UDF) and Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) had formed a mass-movement against apartheid. The new organisations relied more heavily on collective decision-making structures, rather than on individual charisma. She took a more militaristic approach, eschewing the approach of the newer bodies, and began dressing in military garb, and surrounding herself with bodyguards-the Mandela United Football Club (MUFC). Living in Winnie Mandela's home, the putative "soccer team" began hearing family disputes; delivering "judgments" and "sentences" and eventually became associated with kidnapping, torture and murder. She was implicated in at least 15 deaths during this time period.
In 1988, Winnie Mandela's home was burned by high school students in Soweto, in retaliation for the actions of the Mandela United Football Club. By 1989, after appeals from local residents, and after the Seipei kidnapping, the UDF (in the guise of the Mass Democratic Movement (MDM)), "disowned" her for "violating human rights ... in the name of the struggle against apartheid". The ANC in exile issued a statement criticising her judgment, after she refused to heed instructions, issued from prison by Nelson Mandela, to dissociate herself from the Football Club, and after attempts at mediation by an ANC crisis committee failed.
In November 1988, 21-year-old Lolo Sono, and his 19-year-old friend Siboniso Shabalala, disappeared in Soweto. Sono's father said he saw his son in a kombi with Winnie Mandela, and that his son had been badly beaten. Sono claimed that Winnie Mandela had labelled her son a spy, and had said she was "taking him away". At the subsequent Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearings, Sono's stepmother said, "I am pleading with Mrs Mandela today, in front of the whole world, that please, Mrs Mandela, give us our son back. Even if he is dead, let Mrs Mandela give us the remains of our son, so that we must bury him decently." Sono and Shabalala's bodies were exhumed from pauper's graves in Soweto's Avalon Cemetery in 2013, by the National Prosecuting Authority's Missing People's Task Team, having been stabbed soon after their abductions.
On 29 December 1988, Jerry Richardson, who was coach of the Mandela United Football Club, abducted 14-year-old James Seipei (also known as Stompie Sepei) and three other youths from the home of Methodist minister Rev. Paul Verryn, with Richardson claiming that Winnie Mandela had the youths taken to her home because she suspected the reverend was sexually abusing them (allegations that were baseless). The four were beaten to get them to admit to having had sex with the minister. Negotiations that lasted 10 days, by senior ANC and community leaders to get the kidnapped boys released by Winnie Mandela failed. Seipei was accused of being an informer, and his body later found in a field with stab wounds to the throat on 6 January 1989.
In 1991, Mrs Mandela was acquitted of all but the kidnapping of Sepei. A key witness, Katiza Cebekhulu, who was going to testify that Madikizela-Mandela had killed Sepei, had been tortured and kidnapped to Zambia by her supporters, prior to the trial, to prevent him testifying against her. Her six-year jail sentence was reduced to a fine on appeal.
In 1992, she was accused of ordering the murder of Dr. Abu Baker Asvat, a family friend, and prominent Soweto doctor, who had examined Seipei at Mandela's house, after Seipei had been abducted, but before he had been killed. Mandela's role in the Asvat killing was later probed as part of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearings, in 1997. Asvat's murderer testified that she paid the equivalent of $8,000 and supplied the firearm used in the killing, which took place on 27 January 1989. The hearings were later adjourned amid claims that witnesses were being intimidated on Winnie Mandela's orders.
In a 2017 documentary about the life and activism of Winnie Mandela, former Soweto police officer Henk Heslinga alleged that former safety minister Sydney Mufamadi had instructed him to re-open the investigation into the death of Moeketsi, as well as all other cases made against Winnie Mandela, for the purpose of charging Winnie with murder. According to Heslinga, Richardson admitted during an interview that Moeketsi discovered he was an informant, and that he killed the child to cover his tracks. However, at a press conference a few days after Madikizela-Mandela's funeral, Mufamadi denied the allegations in the documentary, stating that Helsinga's statements were false. The documentary had previously been described by in a review by Vanity Fair as "unabashedly one-sided" and "overwhelmingly defensive". Commentator Max du Preez, called the decision by television station eNCA to broadcast the documentary in the week prior to Madikizela-Mandela's funeral without context a "serious mistake", and he described it as making "outrageous claims", while former TRC commissioner Dumisa Ntsebeza questioned the motives of the documentary maker.
In April 2018, Joyce Seipei, the mother of Stompie Seipei, told media that she did not believe that Winnie Madikizela-Mandela was involved in her son’s murder. In a subsequent interview with the UK Independent, Joyce Seipei said that she had forgiven Madikizela-Mandela, and that during the TRC hearings, Madikizela-Mandela had told her, in the context of her son Stompie's murder: "...may God forgive me". After the TRC hearings, Madikizela-Mandela had provided financial support to Joyce Sepei's family, and Seipei's home was furnished by the ANC.
The final report of the Truth and Reconciliation commission (TRC), issued in 1998, found "Ms Winnie Madikizela Mandela politically and morally accountable for the gross violations of human rights committed by the Mandela United Football Club" and that she "was responsible, by omission, for the commission of gross violations of human rights." The TRC report also stated that Sepei trial witness Katiza Cebekhulu's abduction to Zambia, where he was detained without trial for almost 3 years by the Kenneth Kaunda government, before moving to the UK was done by the ANC, and in the "interests" of Madikizela-Mandela. The TRC found allegations against Methodist minister Paul Verryn to be "unfounded and without any merit" and that "Madikizela-Mandela deliberately and maliciously slandered Verryn...in an attempt to divert attention away from herself and [her] associates...". The TRC also found that she was responsible for the abduction of, and assaults on, Stompie Sepei, and that she had attempted to cover up his death by claiming he had fled to Botswana. She was found by the TRC to be responsible for the 1988 disappearance of Lolo Sono and Siboniso Shabalala.
During South Africa's transition to multi-racial democracy, she adopted a far less conciliatory attitude than her husband did towards white South Africans. She was seen on her husband's arm when he was released in February 1990, the first time the couple had been seen in public for nearly 30 years.
However, their 38-year marriage ended in April 1992 after rumours of unfaithfulness. Their divorce was finalised in March 1996. She then adopted the surname "Madikizela-Mandela". Also in 1992, she lost her position as the head of the ANC social welfare department, amid allegations of corruption.
Madikizela-Mandela actively campaigned for the ANC in South Africa's first non-racial elections. Appointed Deputy Minister of Arts, Culture, Science and Technology in May 1994, she was dismissed 11 months later following allegations of corruption.
In 1995, multiple prominent members of the ANC Women's League, including Adelaide Tambo resigned from the National Executive Committee of that body because of disagreement with Madikizela-Mandela's leadership of the body, and amid a controversy about a large donation from Pakistani politician Benazir Bhutto that was not handed over to the League by Madikizela-Mandela
She remained extremely popular amongst many ANC supporters. In December 1993 and April 1997, she was elected president of the ANC Women's League, although she withdrew her candidacy for ANC Deputy President at the movement's Mafikeng conference in December 1997. Earlier in 1997, she appeared before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Archbishop Desmond Tutu as chairman of the commission recognised her importance in the anti-apartheid struggle, but exhorted her to apologise and to admit her mistakes. In a guarded response, she admitted "things went horribly wrong".
In 2002, Madizela-Mandela was found guilty by a Parliamentary ethics committee of failing to disclose donations and financial interests. Madikizela Mandela was often absent from Parliament, sometimes for months at a time, and was ordered by Parliament to account for her absences in 2003
In 2003, Madikizela-Mandela offered to act as a human shield prior to the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Also in 2003, she helped defuse a hostage situation at Wits University, where a student who was in arrears with fees took a staff member hostage at knifepoint.
On 24 April 2003, Winnie Mandela was convicted on 43 counts of fraud and 25 of theft, and her broker, Addy Moolman, was convicted on 58 counts of fraud and 25 of theft. Both had pleaded not guilty. The charges related to money taken from loan applicants' accounts for a funeral fund, but from which the applicants did not benefit. Madikizela-Mandela was sentenced to five years in prison. Shortly after the conviction, she resigned from all leadership positions in the ANC, including her parliamentary seat and the presidency of the ANC Women's League.
In July 2004, an appeal judge of the Pretoria High Court ruled that "the crimes were not committed for personal gain". The judge overturned the conviction for theft, but upheld the one for fraud, handing her a three years and six months suspended sentence.
Madikizela-Mandela criticised the anti-immigrant violence in May–June 2008 that began in Johannesburg and spread throughout the country, and blamed the government's lack of suitable housing provisions for the sentiments behind the riots. She apologised to the victims of the riots and visited the Alexandra township. She offered her home as shelter for an immigrant family from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. She warned that the perpetrators of the violence could strike at the Gauteng train system.
Madikizela-Mandela secured fifth place on the ANC's electoral list for the 2009 general election, behind party president Jacob Zuma, President of South Africa Kgalema Motlanthe, Deputy President Baleka Mbete, and Finance Minister Trevor Manuel. An article in The Observer suggested her position near the top of the list indicated that the party's leadership saw her as a valuable asset in the election with regard to solidifying support among the party's grassroots and the poor.
Madkizela-Mandela was largely sidelined by the ANC in the post-apartheid period,. and, despite her status as an ANC MP over much of that period, she largely associated with non-ANC figures including Bantu Holomisa and Julius Malema. Madikizela-Mandela was a political patron of Malema, who quit the ANC to form his own party, the Economic Freedom Fighters.
In 2010, Madikizela-Mandela was interviewed by Nadira Naipaul. In the interview, she attacked her ex-husband, claiming that he had "let blacks down", that he was only "wheeled out to collect money", and that he is "nothing more than a foundation". She further attacked his decision to accept the Nobel Peace Prize with F. W. de Klerk. Among other things, she reportedly claimed Mandela was no longer "accessible" to her daughters. She referred to Archbishop Tutu, in his capacity as the head of the Truth and Reconciliation commission, as a "cretin".
The interview attracted media attention, and the ANC announced that it would ask her to explain her comments regarding Nelson Mandela. On 14 March 2010, a statement was issued on behalf of Winnie Mandela claiming that the interview was a fabrication.
Winnie Madikizela-Mandela died at the Netcare Milpark Hospital in Johannesburg on 2 April 2018 at the age of 81. She suffered from diabetes and had recently undergone several major surgeries. She "had been in and out of hospital since the start of the year".
In the lead-up to Madikizela Mandela's funeral, in a politically fraught environment soon after the ouster of former president Jacob Zuma, Jessie Duarte, a senior ANC leader, warned critics to "sit down and shut up", with Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius Malema saying that "anyone who accuses Mama Winnie of any crime is guilty of treason".
Madikizela-Mandela was granted a "Special Official Funeral" by the South African government. Her public funeral service was held at Orlando Stadium on 14 April 2018. Planning for Madikizela Mandela's funeral was largely handled by her daughters and Julius Malema, and the ANC reportedly had to "fight for space" on the programme. At the public service, ANC and South African President Cyril Ramaphosa "acknowledged" that the ANC failed to stand by Madikizela-Mandela's side during her legal troubles. Julius Malema, delivered an impassioned speech in which he criticised the United Democratic Front for distancing themselves from Madikizela-Mandela in the 1980s. Malema also criticised members of the National Executive Committee of the ANC Women's League for resigning in 1995, because they regarded Madikizela-Mandela as a "criminal". Madikizela-Mandela's daughter Zenani attacked those who "vilified" her mother, calling them hypocrites. After the public service, her body was interred at a cemetery in Fourways in the north of Johannesburg during a private memorial service.
A number of ANC figures prepared to defend themselves against the allegations made at the funeral, however the ANC urged "restraint".
Mandela was portrayed by Alfre Woodard in the 1987 HBO TV movie, Mandela. Ms Woodard earned both a CableACE Award and an NAACP Image Award for her performance, as did costar Danny Glover, who portrayed Nelson Mandela.
Jennifer Hudson played her in Winnie Mandela, directed by Darrell Roodt, released in Canada by D Films on 16 September 2011. Roodt, Andre Pieterse, and Paul L. Johnson based the film's script on Anne Marie du Preez Bezdrob's biography, Winnie Mandela: A Life. The Creative Workers Union of South Africa opposed the choice of Hudson in the title role, saying the use of foreign actors to tell the country's stories undermined efforts to develop the national film industry.
Mandela was again portrayed in the 2013 film Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom by actress Naomie Harris (British actor Idris Elba played Nelson Mandela). On viewing the film, Madikizela-Mandela told Harris it was "the first time she felt her story had been captured on film". Gugulethu okaMseleku, writing in The Guardian, stated that the film had returned Winnie Mandela to her rightful place, recognising her role in "the struggle" that, "for South African women ... was more fundamental than her husband's."
In 1985, Mrs. Mandela won the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award along with fellow activists Allan Boesak and Beyers Naudé for their human rights work in South Africa. She received a Candace Award for Distinguished Service from the National Coalition of 100 Black Women in 1988.
In January 2018, the University Council and University Senate of Makerere University, Kampala, Uganda, approved the award of an honorary Doctor of Laws (LLD) degree to Winnie Nomzamo Madikizela-Mandela, in recognition of her fight against apartheid in South Africa.
In 1969, she became one of the first detainees under Section 6 of the notorious Terrorism Act. She was detained for eighteen months in solitary confinement in the condemned cell at Pretoria Central Prison before being charged under the Suppression of Communism Act 1950.
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| Rector of the University of Glasgow