Winnie Madikizela-Mandela’s legacy was always going to be contested. Former minister Sydney Mufamadi offered valuable insight into her past and our future on Monday. Mufamadi was responding to Pascal Lamche’s 2017 documentary Winnie, aired on eNCA after her death.
“These investigations took place at the behest of Tony Leon,” said former safety and security minister Sydney Mufamadi on Monday. It’s hardly news. As leader of the then Democratic Party, Leon led a sustained campaign to have Winnie Madikizela-Mandela charged for the 1988 attacks on Lolo Sono, Siboniso Shabalala and Maggie Dlamini.
Madikizela-Mandela’s death has reopened passages of history during apartheid and the early days of democracy that have been ignored, stifled and remain contentious. Finally, they’re being aired and society will benefit as those whose lives intersected with the struggle icon explain their positions, even if some of the individuals suffer.
Mufamadi, who was also a trade unionist and minister for provincial and local government before leaving the civil service for academia, was responding to Pascal Lamche’s 2017 documentary Winnie, aired on eNCA after Madikizela-Mandela’s death. It featured former Soweto cop Henk Heslinga claiming that Mufamadi, as minister, requested that he and then police commissioner George Fivaz re-open investigations into Madikizela-Mandela.
The documentary details allegations of how the apartheid government’s covert strategic communications unit (Stratcom) and the ANC tried to sideline her for her radical politics to ensure a transition favourable for whites. At Madikizela-Mandela’s funeral on Saturday, her daughter Zenani Dlamini and EFF leader Julius Malema criticised those inside and outside the movement who had betrayed her.
“The minister told me we must restart the investigation into all cases on Winnie Mandela. From Stompie right through to try to get evidence so that she can be tried for murder,” said Heslinga, referring to Stompie Seipei, killed by the Nelson Mandela Football Club’s Jerry Richardson. Madikizela-Mandela was convicted of assault and kidnapping in relation to Seipei but was never linked to the murder.
“This documentary, it may not have been an intended consequence, is causing a lot of pain to families to many people who were associated with the struggle for liberation in this country. You need to know that,” Mufamadi told Lamche on Monday.
“There is a version other than the one in the documentary which was not given an opportunity to be aired.”
Lamche apologised for not including his view.
Mufamadi and Fivaz have said the investigations into Madikizela-Mandela were reopened at Leon’s request. Mufamadi, as the former political head of the police, emphatically denied he had the power to instruct cops to reopen cases or offer a generous budget, as the documentary claims.
“You might as well just ask the chief of Stratcom operations to write a biography of Winnie Mandela if you want to approach it this way,” he said.
Madikizela-Mandela and Mufamadi have history, and the former minister on Monday delivered a history lesson. He was an ANC and United Democratic Front (UDF) activist when the UDF distanced itself from Madikizela-Mandela’s Nelson Mandela Football Club, which wreaked havoc in Soweto in the late ‘80s.
“We were worried and we counselled comrade Winnie against keeping that outfit, the Mandela Football Club,” he said.
ANC leaders exiled in Lusaka knew the club’s operatives worked for apartheid police and encouraged the UDF to find a way to work with Madikizela-Mandela, he claimed.
Lamche was at Monday’s press conference and had an exchange with Mufamadi, who effectively said her documentary amounted to Stratcom propaganda aimed at dividing black people.
Lamche stuck to her position that the ANC government probably led, or was complicit in, the reopening of investigations into Madikizela-Mandela in the ‘90s. Those investigations helped keep Madikizela-Mandela’s controversial past in the media and contributed to limiting her political rise.
Tony Leon’s father, apartheid judge Ramon Leon, died on Monday and Leon responded to Mufamadi through DA veteran Douglas Gibson.
“If Tony had not openly and publicly called for an investigation he would have been failing in his duty as leader of the opposition,” he said, largely confirming that Leon led to the cops further investigating Madikizela-Mandela.
Gibson refuted any suggestion that Leon was involved with Stratcom before 1994, which Mufamadi never claimed.
“Tony Leon was doing his job and any allegation that he was ‘behind’ the persecution of Winnie Madikizela-Mandela is also a lie,” said Gibson in a statement.
Apartheid cops did their best to discredit Madikizela-Mandela but Mufamadi had strong arguments to show he did not try to continue that agenda. Winnie never achieved the political office that her public stature might have earned her had she been male and not involved in such controversy, largely due to her isolation within the ANC.
Perhaps the truth lies somewhere in between Mufamadi’s presser and Lamche’s documentary. After a conversation with Malema on Sunday, Mufamadi said he would speak to activists of his generation to ensure they tell their stories to the youth.
“If you don’t feed them the truth they will destroy their own country. They will tear each other apart. Why should we do Stratcom’s job?” he asked.
The details revealed in Mufamadi’s presser and the documentary have exposed the grey area between so-called sell-outs and supporters. Such details are crucial as a new generation expresses its disappointment in the lack of tangible changes in the democratic era and politicians increasingly revert to historical injustices to mobilise supporters, sometimes using populist slogans.
It appears that the ANC, however, is not ready to join the conversation. The ANC Women’s League (ANCWL) called an urgent press conference on Monday afternoon to “set the record straight” on its 11 members who resigned in 1995 in protest of Madikizela-Mandela’s leadership. Malema lashed out at the ANCWL members on Saturday.
The ANCWL failed to offer its point of view. Instead, ANC Deputy Secretary General Jessie Duarte said that while there was acrimony at the time, the party denied the allegations against it but it would not be appropriate to speak while mourning for Madikizela-Mandela continues.
Unfortunately, that’s consistent with the ANC’s recent history – more willing to gloss over controversial periods rather than offer first-hand insight into current debates about the past. DM
Photo: South Africans attend the official state funeral of Winnie Madikizela-Mandela at Orlando stadium in Soweto, Johannesburg, South Africa 14 April 2018. Winnie Mandela, former wife of Nelson Madela and anti-apartheid activist, passed away in a Johannesburg hospital on 02 April 2018 at age 81. EPA-EFE/STR