You are here:   Features > Did Winnie's crimes open Nelson's eyes?

Mrs Mandela was said to have led the questioning, humming, singing and dancing a jig to her own tune as she beat the boys with a sjambok (the hide whip much favoured by the South African police) whenever they came up with answers that displeased her. This was the portrait of a psychopath.

The court heard that the fatally injured Stompie was eventually driven away from the house by a man named Jerry Richardson — “manager” of Mandela United — and summarily dispatched. Sitting a few feet away from Mr Mandela, I watched his expression darken as the witnesses gave their shocking testimony.  He must have known the broad outline of charges against his wife but clearly had been spared the grim, forensic detail. He left court a deeply troubled man. His shoulders had dropped and he looked all of his 72 years.

He returned to court a couple of times over the next few weeks but you could tell his heart wasn’t really in it. Though the formal separation would not come for several months, their marriage was over.

I believe Mr Mandela’s remarkable commitment to peace and reconciliation in building post-apartheid South Africa was cemented that day. At the Rand Supreme Court, he had looked into the abyss and recoiled.

The trial lasted four months, as witnesses and defendants periodically went missing, changed their testimony or suddenly suffered an attack of amnesia. But Winnie was eventually convicted of kidnap and assault. (Strangely, she was not charged with conspiracy to murder.)

Justice Michael Stegmann said she had been “brazenly untruthful” in her denials of involvement and described her in his closing statement as “an unblushing and unprincipled liar”. He sentenced her to six years in prison. But of course the political sensitivity of the times meant that she never served a day.

A woman of poise and charm when she chose to use it, Winnie still wielded considerable power within the ANC, becoming president of its Women’s League in 1993. She represented the radical Africanist wing of the party, which was unimpressed by Mr Mandela’s policy of reconciliation and his vision of a rainbow nation. They were impatient for change and their idea of the new South Africa was black supremacy with instant redistribution of land and wealth. They had more in common with Robert Mugabe than their own party leader.

But after the assassination in 1993 of the charismatic Chris Hani, her great friend and political ally, Mrs Mandela’s influence slowly waned. In the late 1990s and early 2000s she became mired in a series of sleaze and corruption allegations and was ever after held at arm’s length by the ANC leadership.

There’s no doubt Winnie Mandela was a product of the apar-theid state. Deprived of her husband and left with two small children at a young age, harassed and hounded by the security forces, banned, exiled, imprisoned and oppressed, it’s perhaps no surprise she never forgave the white state. But unlike Nelson Mandela, she thirsted for vengeance and had no qualms about using violence and terror to get her way — against black as well as white.

Post-apartheid South Africa still has many deep-rooted problems, but one thing is certain. If Winnie Mandela had managed to get her hands on the levers of power, they would be infinitely worse.
View Full Article
June 8th, 2018
7:06 PM
They are becoming worse. Mandela's thirst is rising again among the ANC and SA is becoming a hell hole. Any white that voluntarily remains is insane.

April 29th, 2018
9:04 AM
It would be good if the eyes of those journalists, currently providing apologist and largely positive obituaries, for Winnie Mandela were to be opened.

Post your comment

This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.