Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, the former wife of Nelson Mandela and for decades one of South Africa’s most prominent and polarizing figures, died April 2 at a hospital in Johannesburg. She was 81.
Her family confirmed the death in a statement and said she had been hospitalized for an illness earlier this year.
At the time of her death, long after her divorce from the country’s first democratically elected president, Mrs. Madikizela-Mandela was still called the Mother of the Nation. And in many ways, she epitomized the so-called “new” South Africa far more than her idealized former husband.
She was beautiful and violent. Her bravery under the brutal apartheid regime won her lasting respect and adulation; allegations that she was the kingpin of a deadly vigilante group during the 1980s earned her fear and mistrust.
She was a political insider who often played the role of outsider. While other leaders moved to luxurious, previously all-white suburbs, Mrs. Madikizela-Mandela stayed in Soweto, the black township southwest of Johannesburg.
She at times harshly criticized the African National Congress — the political party that she also called her “family” — most recently condemning it for the continued economic disparity that has left millions of black South Africans in poverty. Yet since the end of apartheid in 1994, she served many roles in the South African government, from member of Parliament to the head of the ANC Women’s League.
In the late 2000s, she emerged again as a leading political player. She was one of the top vote-getters to the ANC’s executive committee and in 2008 was listed in the No. 5 slot on the party’s parliamentary ticket — above many other senior politicians and cabinet members.
Fraud convictions, insubordination and allegations of crimes from corruption to murder all seemed, at different points, to spell her downfall. Yet Mrs. Madikizela-Mandela always rebounded.
“I learned to deal with the police . . . to be tough . . . to survive,” she told a crowd at American University in 1996 after acknowledging that Americans must be “puzzled” by stories of her. “I want you to know where I come from so you can tell where I am headed. I’m like thousands of women in South Africa who lost their men to cities and prisons . . . I stand defiant, tall and strong.”
The start of a political life
Nomzamo Winifred Zanyiwe Madikizela was born in a remote, beautiful swath of South Africa called Pondoland on Sept. 26, 1936.
Her father, Columbus, was a schoolteacher, and although he appreciated missionaries — especially the Germans, who inspired him to add the “Winifred” to his daughter’s name — he taught local children a different type of history.
“We had our textbooks, naturally written by white men, and they had their interpretation,” Mrs. Madikizela-Mandela wrote in her 1984 autobiography, “Part of My Soul Went With Him.” “Then [Columbus] would put the textbook aside and say: ‘Now, this is what the book says, but the truth is: these white people invaded our country and stole the land from our grandfathers.’
“There is an anger that wakes up in you when you are a child and it builds up and determines the political consciousness of the black man,” she added.
Mrs. Madikizela-Mandela put a more political spin on her childhood than did her teachers and schoolmates, who told biographer Emma Gilbey that they remembered “Winnie” more for her looks than her ideas.
But soon after Mrs. Madikizela-Mandela obtained her social-work degree from the Jan Hofmeyr School in Johannesburg, she met Nelson Mandela. And then she became immersed in the resistance that would define modern-day South Africa.
Their first date was lunch at an Indian restaurant near Mandela’s law office. Sixteen years her senior, he was amused at her inability to eat the spicy curry.
She sat silently, wearing an uncomfortable borrowed suit she hoped would make her look more sophisticated than her 23 years, as a slew of advice-seekers stopped to chat with her well-known date. Later, as they walked through the countryside, Nelson asked for her help raising funds. Her sandal broke on the rocky path.
“Politicians are not lovers,” she told the South African television show “Carte Blanche” in 1992, recollecting that first day together.
Yet the two developed what others described as a passionate relationship. They held hands in public; they went to jazz clubs. There was the occasional blazing argument — such as when Nelson tried to teach Winnie how to drive — but Nelson seemed amused by the young woman’s fire, Gilbey wrote.
Not a year after their first date, Nelson showed Winnie the house of a dressmaker and told her she should get fitted. He asked how many bridesmaids she would like to have, Mrs. Madikizela-Mandela recalled in her autobiography.
“That’s how I was told I was getting married to him!” Mrs. Madikizela-Mandela said. “I asked, ‘What time?’ I was madly in love with him.”
The couple lived within the struggle against the apartheid regime as it instituted ever more oppressive laws. Winnie’s first incarceration came in 1958, when she joined mass protests laws that limited black women’s mobility.
She continued to battle the legal system for the rest of her life.
An international spotlight
The 1960 Sharpeville Massacre, in which police killed dozens of unarmed protesters, focused the world’s attention on South Africa — and on the Mandelas.
At the time, Nelson Mandela was one of the defendants in what would become known as the Treason Trial — a long-running case against dozens of people involved in the public creation of the Freedom Charter, which was a blueprint for what participants hoped would be a future democratic South Africa.
Nelson Mandela, who was not incarcerated during most of the trial, was intimately involved in organizing the group’s defense against allegations that it had plotted a violent overthrow of the government.
Although he had nothing to do with the violence at Sharpeville, Nelson Mandela was taken into custody soon after the massacre. Winnie — keen to give interviews — became his spokeswoman. Her role within the ANC began to shift from spouse to leader.
Although Nelson Mandela was found not guilty in 1961, he went into hiding soon thereafter. After he was captured and recharged, Winnie made front-page news when she arrived at her husband’s trial in traditional Tembu dress.
After he was sentenced to life in prison, she showed a brave face to the world, telling the BBC in a soft voice that she was relieved that her husband, the father of her two daughters, had not been sentenced to die.
Her courage would be tested. Over the next years she would be arrested, harassed and “banned” — forbidden from most social contact. She was the target of police informers. Beginning in 1969, she spent 18 months in solitary confinement.
She was interrogated without break. She was forced to sit upright, for days and nights, to the point that her body swelled and she blacked out.
“My whole body was badly swollen, I was passing blood,” she wrote in her memoir. “The whole experience is so terrible, because I had left little children at home in bed and I had no idea what had happened to them.”
She was given food, but it was often served in unrinsed sanitary pail lids. Often the food was covered in bird droppings.
She was contained by herself in a concrete cell, 5 feet by 10 feet; she slept on the floor. As the weeks passed, she became delirious.
Later, she was exiled to a shack in the remote town of Brandfort.
Yet as the state increasingly isolated her, her international profile grew. The ANC leadership connected her with journalists who wrote about how she had started a day care and had taught other women to plant vegetable gardens. Less publicized was her alleged increased drinking and extramarital relationships, or the questions about what she did with all those international donations to her social welfare programs in Brandfort.
“Our movement took a deliberate decision to profile Nelson Mandela as the representative personality of [political] prisoners, and therefore to use his personal biography, including the persecution of his then wife, Winnie Mandela, dramatically to present . . . the brutality of the apartheid system,” former president Thabo Mbeki wrote soon after leaving office in 2008.
The ANC needed her, but also struggled to control her.
When a defiant Mrs. Madikizela-Mandela returned to Soweto in 1985, it was a far more violent place than she had left, crawling with gangs and police brutality. Her rhetoric fit right in.
“We have no guns — we have only stones, boxes of matches and petrol,” she said at a rally in April 1986. “Together, hand in hand, with our boxes of matches and our necklaces, we shall liberate this country.”
“Necklacing” was a method of killing, often used against suspected police informants, in which a gasoline-soaked tire was forced around someone’s body and then set alight. The speech caused an international outcry, particularly in western capitals.
The same year, she helped form the Mandela United Football Club. Instead of a sports team, many neighbors viewed Mandela United as Mrs. Madikizela-Mandela’s personal gang. Soon, there were whispers of murders, abductions and hit lists.
Over New Year’s, 1988-89, a 14-year-old named James Moeketsi Seipei, or “Stompie,” disappeared from her house. Although she forcefully denied involvement, others later testified that she ordered — and even took part in — the murder of the teen.
The ANC Crisis Committee wrote to their leaders in exile, asking how to manage “this new ghastly situation that is developing before our very eyes.
Public unity, private discord
When Nelson Mandela left prison in 1990, Winnie was there, brilliant before the cameras; one hand in her husband’s, the other held aloft in a fist. But she was soon charged in connection with Stompie’s murder. Although witnesses disappeared, she was convicted of kidnapping and being an accessory to assault.
She never went to jail for the Stompie case. She appealed, and in June 1993 the court upheld her kidnapping conviction but overturned the accessory to assault conviction. Her sentence was suspended and she was ordered to pay a fine of R15,000.
Nelson continued to support his wife publicly, but rumors suggested all was not well in the Mandela marriage. In 1992, Nelson announced their separation. He was pained but gracious.
“She endured the persecutions heaped upon her by the government with exemplary fortitude and never wavered from her commitment to the struggle for freedom,” he said. “Her tenacity reinforced my personal respect, love and growing affection.”
Four years later, suing Winnie for divorce, he was less generous. When he emerged after 27 years in prison, he said, the woman he once called his “darling” had changed. She was blatant in her infidelity, he added, and cold. “I was the loneliest man during the time I stayed with her,” he said.
The judge granted the divorce, over Winnie’s protests.
In 1998, the country’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, chaired by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, condemned her for human rights violations after evidence from 30 witnesses.
Its final report read: “The Commission finds that Ms. Madikizela-Mandela was central to the establishment and formation of the Mandela United Football Club, which later developed into a private vigilante unit.”
It continued: “The Commission finds that those who opposed Ms. Madikizela-Mandela and the Mandela United Football Club, or dissented from them, were branded as informers and killed. The Commission finds that Ms. Madikizela-Mandela … is accountable, politically and morally, for the gross violations of human rights committed by the Mandela United Football Club.
“The Commission finds further that Ms. Madikizela-Mandela herself was responsible for committing such gross violations of human rights.”
She only apologized after an emotional plea from Tutu during the hearings.
But her followers — and her party — seemed to forgive, or ignore, these alleged trespasses.
She headed the ANC’s Women’s League and ran for deputy president, but resigned from all leadership positions after being found guilty in 2003 of fraud and theft in connection to a bank scam.
In the late 2000s, she emerged again as one of the country’s most popular politicians. The country’s youth continued to call her their hero, and government officials said the ANC would “never turn its back on Winnie.”
“Without condoning her misdemeanors, we must acknowledge that she is a victim, she is damaged and hurt,” said future South African president Kgalema Motlanthe, who at the time was ANC Secretary General. “When someone is subjected to the kind of consistent persecution and harassment she suffered from the apartheid system, something is bound to snap. We understand that and will always be there for her.”
LAPD opens internal affairs inquiry in Nipsey Hussle murder
Los Angeles police have opened an internal affairs investigation into why the woman who drove the getaway car in the aftermath of rapper Nipsey Hussle’s killing was sent home when she tried to turn herself in during the manhunt for the shooter.
The LAPD’s Office of the Inspector General confirmed Monday that the Internal Affairs Group is investigating a desk officer’s response at the 77th Street station. Capt. Gisselle Espinoza, an LAPD spokeswoman, said the matter is under administrative investigation and she couldn’t release more details.
Grand jury testimony shows the woman who drove the suspect, Eric R. Holder, away from the March 31 shooting had gone to the station because her car and license plate were on the news.
“Oh my God,” the woman, whose name has not been released, testified that she told her mother. “My car is on here and everything, and I didn’t do anything. I didn’t know this boy was gonna do this.”
Her mother called police but was told detectives wouldn’t be available until 6 a.m. the next day, grand jury transcripts show.
When they arrived at the station the next morning, the front desk officer said “don’t worry about it” and “don’t listen to the news,” the transcript shows. The woman left the station, returning later to speak to detectives after her mother called police again.
LAPD Detective Cedric Washington testified that the woman had been turned away.
“That is true according to the desk officer that I spoke to about it,” Washington said.
“OK. He apparently missed a briefing in the chief’s press conference that day, I guess,” Deputy District Attorney John McKinney said.
Josh Rubenstein, an LAPD spokesman, said Monday in an email that the internal investigation began a few days ago.
“While the initial indications pointed to a miscommunication, we have initiated an administrative investigation to ensure all policies and procedures were followed,” Rubenstein wrote. “We will review all statements that have already been given, interview all of the individuals involved, and look for any potential body cam video that may have captured the interchange.”
Rubenstein told the Los Angeles Times last week there didn’t appear to be any misconduct.
“She was not making herself clear of what she was doing,” Rubenstein said, noting that the officer believed the woman was reporting that someone was just recording video of her car on television.
A grand jury on May 9 returned an indictment charging Holder, 29, with murder, attempted murder and other felonies. He has pleaded not guilty.
The woman testified that Holder was a friend she had known for about a month and that she believed the two were just stopping at a shopping center for food.
She saw Hussle standing outside his South Los Angeles clothing store, The Marathon, expressed her excitement and took a picture with him after overhearing Holder and Hussle’s conversation about “snitching.”
The woman and Holder had pulled out of the shopping center and into a nearby gas station when Holder loaded a gun, told her he would be back and walked back to the shopping center, the woman testified.
She said she heard two gunshots, and Holder returned moments later telling her to drive. She said she didn’t learn Hussle had been shot until later that night.
Witnesses heard Holder and Hussle, both of whom have ties to the Rollin’ 60s street gang, discussing “snitching” minutes before Hussle was shot, according to the transcripts.
Holder was arrested two days later about 20 miles (32 kilometers) from the crime scene.
Hussle, 33, whose real name is Ermias Ashgedom, was a long-respected rapper who had just broken through with a Grammy-nominated album before he was shot and killed.
Beth Chapman not expected to recover
Beth Chapman is not expected to recover and leave the hospital, and the family is preparing for the worst … family sources say.
We’ve learned Beth’s mother has flown from the mainland to Hawaii to be by her daughter’s side. Her children and grandchildren — many of whom live in Hawaii — are also gathering at Beth’s bedside.
As we reported, Beth has been waging a difficult war against stage 4 lung cancer. She was hospitalized Saturday after experiencing difficulty breathing as well as choking. She was placed in a medically-induced coma.
Family sources say there’s not a lot that can be done for Beth and at this point, and the family is making medical decisions with the help of her doctors.
Dog posted a pic of Beth’s hand as she lay in her hospital bed with freshly painted nails, with the caption, “You all know how she is about HER NAILS!!”
She had been diagnosed with cancer back in 2017 and suffered a recurrence last November. Beth said last month on Mother’s Day, “Chemotherapy is not my bag, people. Sorry, that’s not for me. So for me, this is the ultimate test of faith. This is my ultimate lesson.”
Former State Senator Reportedly Found Shot to Death at Her Home
A former Arkansas state senator was reportedly found dead at her home this week, and authorities are investigating her death as a homicide.
The body of a woman was discovered Tuesday night at Linda Collins-Smith’s residence in the city of Pocahontas, some 145 miles northeast of the state capital, Little Rock. The Randolph County Sheriff’s Office said its deputies responded to the scene and then asked the Arkansas State Police to be the lead investigative agency in what is currently being treated as a homicide investigation.
“The condition of the body prevented any immediate positive identification,” Randolph County Sheriff Kevin Bell said at a press conference Wednesday. “The body has been sent for an autopsy to determine the positive identification and cause of death.
Authorities wouldn’t say if Collins-Smith is the victim, and a judge has issued a gag order sealing the documents and statements obtained by police.
“Arkansas State Police has not, as of this hour, issued a statement that positively identifies a homicide victim in this case,” Arkansas State Police spokesman Bill Sadler told ABC News in an email early Thursday morning.
However, Collins-Smith’s former press secretary, Ken Yang, told Little Rock ABC affiliate KATV that she was found shot to death inside her home and her body was wrapped in some sort of blanket. Neighbors apparently reported hearing gunshots a day or two before her body was discovered.
Collins-Smith, who ran for reelection last year but was defeated in the Republican Party primary, was “someone who truly cared about Arkansas, truly cared about her district,” according to Yang. She was 57.
“It was shocking,” he said during an interview Tuesday night. “This was not just a political relationship. This was a close personal friendship that I had with Linda.”
Politicians on both sides of the aisle expressed shock and sadness at the news of the death of their Republican colleague.
“I’m both stunned and saddened by the death of former State Senator Linda Collins-Smith,” Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson said in a statement on Wednesday afternoon. “She was a good person who served in the public arena with passion and conviction. The First Lady and I extend our deepest sympathies to her family and friends during this difficult time.”
“Today, we learned of the untimely death of former Senator Linda Collins Smith. She was a passionate voice for her people and a close member of our Republican family,” the Republican Party of Arkansas said in a statement on Tuesday evening. “We are praying for her loved ones during this difficult time.”
“To so many of us, Senator Linda Collins-Smith was more than just a colleague,” the Democratic Party of Arkansas said in a statement via Twitter on Tuesday night. “She was a friend and warm person. We are stunned and saddened to hear of her death. Please join us in prayer as we remember her family and her loved ones.”
Collins-Smith lost to James Sturch in the Republican Party primary for the 19th district in Arkansas in May 2018 by fewer than 600 votes. She previously served one term in the Arkansas House of Representatives from 2011 to 2013, switching parties after being elected as a Democrat.
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