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Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, dies at 81

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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.

Continued allegiance

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.”

 

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CHADWICK BOSEMAN DEAD AT 43 FROM COLON CANCER

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Chadwick Boseman, the iconic “Black Panther” star, has died at age 43 after a 4-year battle with colon cancer.

His family released a statement, saying “It is with immeasurable grief that we confirm the tragic passing of Chadwick Boseman. Chadwick was diagnosed with stage III colon cancer in 2016, and battled with it these last 4 years as it progressed to stage IV.”

They continue that “it was the honor of his career to bring King T’Challa to life in Black Panther.”

“He died in his home, with his wife and family by his side”

Chadwick, who most famously brought the first black Marvel superhero to life in “Black Panther” along with a string of ‘Avengers’ movies was no stranger to giving life to iconic roles. He portrayed Jackie Robinson, James Brown, and Thurgood Marshall in “Marshall.”

Recently, Chadwick had sparked concern amongst his fans, as he appeared very thin in videos on social media. This worry nearly overshadowed the impactful words he wanted to share with the world about Jackie Robinson and the pandemic.

Born in South Carolina, he always had an affinity for theater, and wrote his first play in high school. He attended the famous predominantly black college, Howard University, and graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Fine arts.

He started his career in writing and directing, but clearly, he was meant to be on the other side of the camera. He took the world by storm in 2013 in the role of Jackie Robinson in “42.” On playing that role, Chadwick said, “The story is relevant because we still stand on his shoulders. He started something – I would even say maybe he didn’t even start it, it started before him. But he carried the torch. And he carried it alone for a period of time before other people could help him.” Clearly, he forwarded the narrative of that, as he moved on to play one of the most influential roles of a generation in the portrayal of T’Challa, aka Black Panther.

The impact he had on Hollywood, while too short, was phenomenal. He hosted ‘SNL’ in a very memorable episode, and was slated to start in ‘Black Panther 2’ which was meant to be released in 2022

Chadwick was 43. RIP

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Jacob Blake Hospital Handcuffs Finally Removed

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Jacob is no longer handcuffed to his hospital bed, his felony warrants have been vacated and police stopped guarding him at the hospital … the family’s lawyer stated.

Jacob Blake’s father says his son is handcuffed to his hospital bed despite being paralyzed from the waist down after suffering 7 gunshot wounds from a cop.

Blake’s dad, also named Jacob, says when he visited his son in the hospital Wednesday he found him cuffed to his bed … and immediately questioned why it was necessary.

The elder Blake says he hated seeing his son like that and pointed out … “He can’t go anywhere. Why do you have him cuffed to the bed?”

Blake claims he also hasn’t gotten an answer as to what Jacob was arrested for that would warrant him being handcuffed in the first place.

Jacob’s parents got emotional Tuesday as they spoke outside the Kenosha County Courthouse about their son being shot and his condition, and the family’s lawyer revealed it would be a miracle if he ever walks again.

As we’ve reported … the 29-year-old father was shot 7 times at point-blank range by Kenosha, WI police officer Rusten Sheskey.

Cops say they were initially called to the scene for a domestic disturbance, and the shooting’s being investigated by the Wisconsin Department of Justice Division of Criminal Investigation.

So far, no word from law enforcement about Jacob’s arrest or charges.

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Son of Sweetie Pie’s owner charged in murder-for-hire plot that killed owner’s grandson

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James Timothy Norman of Sweetie Pie‘s fame is facing federal charges alleging he conspired with an exotic dancer in the murder of his eighteen-year-old nephew Andre Montgomery.

The 41-year-old son of the legendary restaurant owner Robbie Montgomery was arrested this morning at his home in Jackson, Mississippi, according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney.

Norman, who starred with his family in the show Welcome to Sweetie Pie’s, had feuded with his mother over money in recent years after she sued him for opening restaurants under the Sweetie Pie’s brand without her permission, according to court records.

It was a messy, public spat, but federal authorities say Norman executed a far more sinister conspiracy to have his teenage nephew killed in 2016. According to the criminal complaint unsealed today, Norman had taken out $450,000 in life insurance policies on Andre Montgomery in 2014, and he was the sole beneficiary.

James Timothy Norman was charged in a murder-for-hire plot. - MADISON COUNTY, MISSISSIPPI DETENTION CENTER
James Timothy Norman was charged in a murder-for-hire plot. – MADISON COUNTY, MISSISSIPPI DETENTION CENTER

In 2016, Norman was living in Los Angeles. Phone records obtained by investigators showed that leading up to Andre Montgomery’s murder, Norman and a Memphis-based dancer named Teria Ellis headed to St. Louis and communicated over burner phones. Ellis also started contacting Montgomery, sending him her Instagram account handle, Alexusdagreat, and texting that she would be visiting St. Louis.

“I’m on my way in town,” she wrote him in an email on March 10, 2016, according to court records.

Three days later, Norman flew into St. Louis and booked a room at the Chase Park Plaza hotel. The next day, March 14, Ellis contacted Montgomery to figure out where he was, according to the complaint. Cell phone records showed that he texted her the address of a house: 3964 Natural Bridge Ave. in the city. Ellis then called Norman.

That night, at 8:02 p.m., Montgomery was shot to death at the house on Natural Bridge. And investigators believe Ellis was there. Location data from her burner phone put her at the scene, and in one of Montgomery’s final phone calls, he spoke to his girlfriend, who later told investigators she could hear a woman’s voice in the background.

One minute after the eighteen-year-old was shot, Ellis made another call — to Norman.

“Despite being at the scene of Montgomery’s murder at 8:02pm, ELLIS’s first phone call was not to the police, but rather to [NORMAN] at 8:03 p.m., at which time her phone location data showed she was driving in a direction consistent with her returning home in Memphis, Tennessee,” the criminal complaint says.

Phone records would then show the phone moving south along Interstate 55. Norman’s phone showed him flying back to Los Angeles, arriving early the morning after the killing. That same day, March 15, 2016, both the burner phones went dark, authorities say.

Back in Memphis, Ellis began depositing money — $3,020 in a checking account that previously had a negative balance and another $4,340 in a savings account opened the same day. On March 17, 2016, she deposited another $1,900.

On March 22, 2016, she and her mother and daughter flew to Los Angeles. There’s not much information in the court records about what they did there, but authorities say location data for her mom’s phone showed that on at least one occasion they were with Norman.

At the end of April 2016, Norman wired Ellis $700.

Norman waited a week to try to collect on his murdered nephew’s life insurance police, authorities say. On March 21, 2016, he called the bank, but he never provided all the documentation required and still hasn’t gotten the money, according to court records.

He’s now being held without bond at a jail in Madison County, Mississippi. He and Ellis have been charged with conspiracy to use interstate commerce facilities in commission of murder-for-hire, resulting in death.

The case is being investigated by St. Louis police and the FBI.

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