Winnie Madikizela-Mandela

Winnie Madikizela-Mandela
Member of Parliament
In office
May 2009 – Incumbent
Member of Parliament
In office
Deputy Minister of Arts, Culture, Science and Technology
In office
Preceded by none (position established)
Succeeded by Pallo Jordan (Arts and Culture), Derek Hanekom (Science and Technology)
Personal details
Born 26 September 1936 (1936-09-26) (age 75)
Bizana, South Africa
Spouse(s) Nelson Mandela 1957–1996
Alma mater University of South Africa
Profession Social worker, politician
Religion Christian Methodist

Winnie Madikizela-Mandela (born Nomzamo Winfreda Madikizela; 26 September 1936) is a South African politician who has held several government positions and headed the African National Congress Women's League. She is currently a member of the ANC's National Executive Committee. Although still married to Nelson Mandela at the time of his becoming president of South Africa in May 1994, the couple had separated two years earlier. Their divorce was finalised on 19 March 1996,[1] with an unspecified out-of-court settlement. Winnie Mandela's attempt to obtain a settlement up to US$5 million, half of what she claimed her ex-husband was worth, was dismissed when she failed to appear at court for a financial settlement hearing.[2]

A controversial activist, she is popular among her supporters, who refer to her as the 'Mother of the Nation', yet reviled by others, mostly due to her alleged involvement in several human rights abuses, including the 1988 kidnapping of 14-year old ANC activist Stompie Moeketsi, who was later murdered.[3]

In March 2009, the Independent Electoral Commission ruled that Winnie Mandela, who was selected as an ANC candidate, could run in the April 2009 general election, despite having a fraud conviction.[4]


Early life

Her Xhosa name is Nomzamo (she who tries). Umzamo means attempt (trying to accomplish something). The prefix "No-" means "mother of". No+umzamo = Nomzamo, which literally means "the mother of attempt". She was born in the village of eMbongweni,[5] Bizana, in the Pondo region of what is now South Africa's Eastern Cape Province. 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 times in Bizana, Shawbury and Johannesburg.

She met lawyer and anti-apartheid activist Nelson Mandela in 1957. They were married in 1958 and had two daughters, Zenani (also called Zeni) (b.1959) and Zindzi (b.1960). In June 2010, Winnie was treated for shock after the death of her great granddaughter, Zenani, who was killed in a car accident on the eve of the opening of South Africa's World Cup. She has diabetes.[6]

Despite restrictions on education of blacks during apartheid, Mandela earned a degree in social work from the Jan Hofmeyer School in Johannesburg, and several years later earned a Bachelor's degree in international relations from the University of Witwatersrand, also in Johannesburg. She is also a qualified Social Worker.


Mandela emerged as a leading opponent of the white minority rule government during the later years of her husband's long imprisonment (August 1963 – February 1990). For many of those years, she was exiled to the town of Brandfort in the Orange Free State and confined to the area, except for the times she was allowed to visit her husband at the prison on Robben Island. Beginning in 1969, she spent eighteen months in solitary confinement at Pretoria Central Prison.[7]

In a leaked letter to Jacob Zuma in October 2008, just-resigned President of South Africa Thabo Mbeki alluded to the role the ANC created for her in the anti-apartheid activism:

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.[8]

Violent rhetoric and murder allegations

Mandela's reputation was damaged by her bloodthirsty rhetoric, the most noteworthy example of this being a speech she gave in Munsieville on 13 April 1986, where she endorsed the practice of necklacing (burning people alive using tyres and petrol) in the struggle to end apartheid. She said, "with our boxes of matches and our necklaces we shall liberate this country".[9]

Further tarnishing her reputation were accusations by her bodyguard, Jerry Musivuzi Richardson, that Winnie Madikizela-Mandela ordered kidnapping and murder.[3] On 29 December 1988, Richardson, coach of the Mandela United Football Club (MUFC) – which acted as Mrs. Mandela's personal security detail[10] – abducted 14-year-old James Seipei (also known as Stompie Moeketsi) and three other youths from the home of Methodist minister Rev. Paul Verryn. Mrs. Mandela claimed that she had the youth taken to her home because she suspected the reverend was sexually abusing them. The four were beaten in order to get them to admit to sex with the reverend and Seipei was also accused of being an informer. Seipei's body was found in a field with stab wounds to the throat on 6 January 1989.[10] This incident became a cause célèbre for the apartheid government. In 1991, she was convicted of kidnapping and being an accessory to assault in connection with the death of Seipei. Her six-year jail sentence was reduced to a fine on appeal. The final report of the South African Truth and Reconciliation commission, issued in 1998, found "Ms Winnie Madikizela Mandela politically and morally accountable for the gross violations of human rights committed by the MUFC."[11]

Transition to democracy

During South Africa's transition to democracy, she adopted a far less conciliatory attitude than her husband toward the dominant white community. Despite being on her husband's arm when he was released in 1990, the first time the two had been seen in public for nearly thirty years, the Mandelas' 38-year marriage ended when they separated in April 1992 after it was revealed that she had been unfaithful to Nelson during his imprisonment. The couple divorced in March 1996. She then adopted the surname Madikizela-Mandela. Appointed Deputy Minister of Arts, Culture, Science and Technology in the first post-Apartheid government (May 1994), she was dismissed eleven months later following allegations of corruption.[12]

She remained popular among many ANC supporters, and, in December 1993 and April 1997, she was elected president of the ANC Women's League, though she withdrew her candidacy for ANC Deputy President at the movement's Mafikeng conference in December 1997. 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 also begged her to apologise and to admit her mistakes. In a guarded response, she echoed his words, admitting that "things went horribly wrong".[13]

Legal problems

On 24 April 2003, she was found guilty 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 to the charges, which 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.[14]

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.[15]

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.[16]

In June 2007, the Canadian High Commission in South Africa declined to grant Winnie Mandela a visa to travel to Toronto, Canada, where she was scheduled to attend a gala fundraising concert organised by arts organisation MusicaNoir, which included the world premiere of The Passion of Winnie, an opera based on her life.[17]

Return to politics

When the ANC announced the election of its National Executive Committee on 21 December 2007, Mandela placed first with 2845 votes.[18][19]

Apology to riot victims

Madikizela 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.[20] She also apologised to the victims of the riots[21] and visited the Alexandra township.[22]

She also offered her home as a shelter for an immigrant family from the Democratic Republic of the Congo.[23] She warned that the perpetrators of the violence could strike at the Gauteng train system.[24]

2009 general election

Winnie secured fifth place on the ANC's electoral list for the 2009 general election, behind party president and current President of South Africa Jacob Zuma, former President of South Africa Kgalema Motlanthe, Deputy President of South Africa Baleka Mbete, and Finance Minister Trevor Manuel. An article in The Observer suggested that 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.[25]

2010 interview with Nadira Naipaul

In 2010, Madikizela-Mandela was interviewed by Nadira Naipaul. In the interview, she attacked her ex-husband, claiming that he had "let blacks down", claiming 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 FW De Klerk. Among other things, she also claimed that Mandela was no longer "accessible" to her daughters. She referred to archbishop Desmond Tutu, in his capacity as the head of the Truth and Reconciliation commission as a "cretin".[26]

The interview attracted media attention,[27][28] and the ANC announced it would ask her to explain the apparent attack on Nelson Mandela.[29]

On 14 March 2010 a statement was issued on behalf of Winnie Mandela claiming that the interview was a "fabrication".[30]

In media

Mandela was first portrayed by Alfre Woodard in the TV movie Mandela. Tina Lifford portrayed Winnie Mandela in the 1997 TV drama Mandela and De Klerk;[31] Sophie Okonedo portrayed her in the BBC television drama Mrs Mandela, first broadcast on BBC Four on 25 January 2010.[32]

Jennifer Hudson will play her in the upcoming biopic film, Winnie, directed by Darrell J. Roodt, to be released in Canada by D Films in December 2011. Andre Pieterse, Roodt and Paul L. Johnson based the film's script on Anne Marie du Preez Bezdrob's biography, Winnie Mandela: A Life.[33] The Creative Workers Union of South Africa have opposed this choice, stating they will push for a moratorium on the film if the casting is not reversed.[34]


  1. ^ Daley, Suzanne (20 March 1996). "South African Judge Gives Nelson Mandela a Divorce". The New York Times. 
  2. ^ "Nelson and Winnie Mandela divorce; Winnie fails to win $5 million settlement". Jet. 8 April 1996. 
  3. ^ a b "Winnie says evidence against her is 'ludicrous'". BBC News. 4 December 1997. Retrieved 25 August 2009. 
  4. ^ "Winnie Mandela 'can run in poll'". BBC News. 23 March 2009. Retrieved 24 March 2009. 
  5. ^ Winnifred (Winnie) Madikizela-Mandela. Retrieved on 2011-05-30.
  6. ^ Reported in Diabetes Health, 2000. Retrieved on 2011-05-30.
  7. ^ "Nomzamo Nobandla Winnifred MADIKIZELA-MANDELA". African National Congress. Retrieved 24 January 2010. "In 1969 she became one of the first detainees under Section 6 of the notorious Terrorism Act. She was detained for 18 months in solitary confinement in the condemned cell at Pretoria Central before being charged under the Suppression of Communism Act." 
  8. ^ "Thabo Mbeki's letter to Jacob Zuma". Politicsweb. 31 October 2008. Retrieved 15 April 2009. 
  9. ^ "Row over 'mother of the nation' Winnie Mandela". The Guardian (UK). 27 January 1989.,,110268,00.html. 
  10. ^ a b Wren, Christopher S. (26 May 1990). "Winnie Mandela Aide Guilty of Murder". The New York Times. 
  11. ^ "Truth and Reconciliation Commission of South Africa Report, Volume Two, Chapter 6 (pp. 543–582): Special Investigation: Mandela United Football Club". 29 October 1998. Retrieved 10 July 2010. 
  12. ^ Fred Bridgland (26 April 2003). "Winnie Mandela's fall from grace". The Scotsman (Edinburgh). Retrieved 24 March 2009. 
  13. ^ "Facing the Past". PBS NewsHour. 4 December 1997. 
  14. ^ "ANC: We won't dump Winnie". Sunday Times (South Africa). 27 April 2003. 
  15. ^ "Winnie Mandela resigns ANC posts". CNN. 25 April 2003. 
  16. ^ "Winnie: No personal gain". News24. 7 May 2004.,,2-7-1442_1553061,00.html. 
  17. ^ "Winnie Mandela denied entry to Canada for arts gala". 5 June 2007. Retrieved 5 June 2007. 
  18. ^ Newly-elected National Executive Committee, ANC Website, Retrieved on 21 December 2007
  19. ^ Winnie Mandela tops ANC election list, The Times, 21 December 2007
  20. ^ Winnie speaks out on SA's issues. (2008-05-30). Retrieved on 2011-05-30.
  21. ^ Hawley, Caroline. (2008-05-16) Refugees flee South Africa attacks. BBC News. Retrieved on 2011-05-30.
  22. ^ Winnie visits Alexandra[dead link]
  23. ^ Winnie adopts refugee family[dead link]
  24. ^ S.Africa attacks may spread to trains – Mandela ex-wife. (2009-02-09). Retrieved on 2011-05-30.
  25. ^ Winnie set for shock comeback to ANC politics. Guardian. Retrieved on 2011-05-30.
  26. ^ Nadira Naipaul: . "How Nelson Mandela betrayed us, says ex-wife Winnie". London Evening Standard. 8 March 2010
  27. ^ Winnie Mandela accuses Nelson of letting down South Africa's blacks. Telegraph, 14 March 2010
  28. ^ Colin Fernandez: "Winnie Mandela accuses Nelson of 'betraying' the blacks of South Africa [". Daily Mail, 9 March 2010
  29. ^ Murray Williams and Caiphus Kgosana: "News – South Africa: 'Madiba let us down'". Retrieved 14 March 2010. 
  30. ^ 'Ms Naipaul is a liar and a fraud'. Times Live/Sunday Times, 14 March 2010
  31. ^
  32. ^ Dowell, Ben (11 March 2009). "BBC commissions Winnie Mandela drama". The Guardian (UK: Guardian News and Media). Retrieved 11 March 2009. 
  33. ^ Fleming, Michael. (2009-11-17) Jennifer Hudson to star in 'Winnie'. Retrieved on 2011-05-30.
  34. ^ "South African actors 'want Hudson out of Mandela film'". American Free Press. 7 December 2009. Retrieved 8 December 2009. 

External links

Academic offices
Preceded by
Michael Kelly
Rector of the University of Glasgow
Succeeded by
Pat Kane

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