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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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Capitol Rioter Screams at Cops Asking Them to Call for Backup to Combat Mob

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Not every Trumper at the U.S. Capitol was down with the siege … or at least so it appears based on this one MAGA cap-wearing man’s convo with Capitol Police in the middle of the riot.

Check out this clip that just surfaced from Jan. 6, when the guy approached a group of Capitol Police officers who were standing off to the side … while the mob stormed into the building.

The man’s words here are telling … he asks why the cops are letting this happen, and why they haven’t called for backup — noting this is the U.S. FREAKIN’ CAPITOL THAT’S BEING INVADED, and that these people storming it are “out for blood.”

Anyway, the officers didn’t seem to respond at all, and the man continued his diatribe … telling them that if no extra help was on the way, it means they don’t care about what’s happening to the Capitol.

A supporter of U.S. President Donald Trump smashes a window using a baseball bat during a “Stop the Steal” protest outside of the Capitol building in Washington D.C. U.S. January 6, 2021. Picture taken January 6, 2021. REUTERS/Stephanie Keith

The whole thing is pretty ironic — a clear Trump supporter right in the thick of the action denouncing the act of breaching the premises. Now, we have no idea what his motives were here, or if he was genuinely separating himself from the illegal activity.

We’ll say this … he does seem to rejoin the mob as the video ends, but we have no way of knowing if he actually went inside the Capitol.

As we first reported, the FBI is investigating a possible Capitol inside job that allowed the siege to take place. And, of course, the Capitol Police Chief resigned too … not to mention multiple suspensions and firings that have taken place since.

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Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell says Trump provoked deadly Capitol riot

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  • President Donald Trump and others provoked the swarms of his supporters that stormed the U.S. Capitol, said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
  • “The mob was fed lies. They were provoked by the president and other powerful people,” McConnell said on the Senate floor.
  • McConnell’s remarks came as he and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer work to hash out details on Trump’s impending impeachment trial.
  • The remarks also came the day before President-elect Joe Biden is sworn in as president.
Supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump gather at the west entrance of the Capitol during a “Stop the Steal” protest outside of the Capitol building in Washington D.C. U.S. January 6, 2021. Picture taken January 6, 2021. REUTERS/Stephanie Keith

President Donald Trump and others provoked the swarms of his supporters that stormed the U.S. Capitol, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday.

“The mob was fed lies. They were provoked by the president and other powerful people,” McConnell said on the Senate floor, which two weeks earlier had been evacuated after the crowd of rioters invaded the building.

The remarks from McConnell, R-Ky., came as he and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., worked to hash out details on Trump’s impending impeachment trial. Trump was impeached in the Democrat-led House last week in a 232-197 vote, with 10 Republicans voting in favor of impeachment.

Trump is the only president in U.S. history to be impeached twice.

The GOP leader made the direct link between the Republican president’s rhetoric and the Jan. 6 riot, which left five dead, the day before President-elect Joe Biden was set to be sworn in as the 46th president.

McConnell has rebuffed pressure from Democrats to hold that trial before Trump leaves office, but he has told colleagues that he is undecided on whether Trump should be convicted in the Senate for inciting the riot.

McConnell’s remarks also suggested that other leaders bore responsibility for the attack. A growing chorus of critics have called on some lawmakers, especially GOP Sens. Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley, to resign after they objected to key states’ electoral results.

McConnell had congratulated Biden on his victory in mid-December, more than a month after the Nov. 3 election.

The White House did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment on McConnell’s latest remarks.

Trump, who exhorted the crowd at a rally outside the White House to “fight like hell” and head to the Capitol to overturn the 2020 election, has insisted that his remarks just before the riot were “totally appropriate.”

In that speech, Trump repeated the incendiary and false claim that he had been robbed of reelection by widespread electoral fraud. He once again vowed that he would never concede to Biden, and he urged his supporters to go to the Capitol to “cheer on” Republican lawmakers who had vowed to object to the results.

“We’re probably not going to be cheering so much for some of them because you’ll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength, and you have to be strong,” Trump also said.

Many of his supporters attending that rally walked directly across the National Mall to the Capitol, where a joint session of Congress had convened to confirm Biden’s Electoral College victory. Rioters broke through barricades and lines of law enforcement officers and entered the Capitol, forcing Congress into hiding. Among them was Vice President Mike Pence, who was presiding over the event.

After McConnell’s remarks, Schumer said on the Senate floor that “Donald Trump should not be eligible to run for office ever again.”

“Healing and unity will only come if there is truth and accountability,” Schumer said.

“There will be an impeachment trial in the United States Senate, there will be a vote on convicting the president for high crimes and misdemeanors, and if the president is convicted, there will be a vote on barring him from running again,” Schumer said.

Trump, who has acknowledged the coming end to his one term in office without conceding to Biden, has not called his successor, nor has he invited him to the White House before the inauguration.

Pence last week called Vice President-elect Kamala Harris to congratulate her and offer his assistance before she is sworn in.

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UNITED AIRLINES PASSENGER DIES AFTER LYING ABOUT COVID SYMPTOMS

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A passenger on a United jet with nearly 200 others onboard was pronounced dead shortly after the pilot made an emergency landing, and it’s almost certain the man had COVID.

Furious United Airlines passengers have criticized the company after a man who they claimed was showing clear coronavirus-like symptoms was allowed to board the plane and died before he reached his destination.

The flight took off from Orlando bound for Los Angeles on Monday, and the victim was pronounced dead after an emergency landing in New Orleans.

Medics on board attempted to save him, including by reportedly performing CPR. His wife, one passenger said, told all within earshot that he had been showing symptoms for the past week and so she suspected COVID-19. 

United said on Friday they were trying to trace those on board United Flight 591.

The flight was a Boeing 737-900 with capacity for 179 people, according to Flight Aware. 

The victim was taken off and the plane and all other passengers then carried on to LA – with some later saying they were not offered the chance to rebook onto a different flight. 

United 591 is seen arriving at Los Angeles airport, after a passenger died on leaving Orlando

The plane, pictured at the gate in LA, made an emergency stop in New Orleans and the man was pronounced dead. The plane, and all its passengers, then continued to LA

A United flight from Orlando to Los Angeles Monday was diverted due to a medical emergency

‘Can I ask how you guys let a covid positive man on my flight last night?’ said one woman. 

‘He was shaking and sweating boarding the plane. He was clearly sick and then died mid flight. We had an emergency landing in New Orleans and we didn’t even switch planes afterwards. 

‘We all sat there for hours waiting while you guys cleaned up his blood and germs with wet wipes. Is this how you guys handle other people’s safety and health?’

She said that the airline’s claim that they believed he had a heart attack was ‘laughable’, adding: ‘There was never any mention of we are diverting this flight because of cardiac arrest reasons. 

‘Everyone was aware this was COVID related because the wife was relaying his medical information, and shared he was in fact COVID positive and symptomatic for over a week. That is them covering up the fact that they handled this situation poorly.’ 

Another woman, named Shay, also tweeted angrily at United, accusing them of failing to check on the passengers before boarding, and criticizing the man and his wife for flying. 

‘United, why did you never check our temperatures before boarding?’ she tweeted. 

‘The family of the man, why didn’t you go to the hospital or not let your husband get on the flight feeling like that? 

‘An entire plane had to watch him seize or have a heart attack none of us know which, and die.’

Shay said she noticed the man having breathing difficulties.

‘I made eye contact with his wife and looked at him and she just looked down,’ Shay said. 

She said the medical team on board tried to revive him for an hour.

‘The family was crying, people were freaking out,’ she said. 

‘He was shocked twice, given an epi-pen, 2 shots of adrenaline and mouth to mouth after chest compressions…’ 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) asked United for the passenger manifest so other passengers can be told that they might have been exposed to a disease, spokesman Charles Hobart said.

The passenger had filled out a form before the flight saying he had not tested positive for COVID-19 and had no symptoms of the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, according to the airline.

‘It is apparent the passenger wrongly acknowledged this requirement,’ United said.

United said the CDC did not specify the man’s cause of death, and United does not know whether it was COVID-19. 

But, the airline said, the man’s wife was overheard telling an emergency medical technician that he had shown symptoms of the disease, including loss of taste and smell.

The CDC is collecting information to decide whether further public health action is appropriate, an agency spokesman said in a text message. 

‘To protect the privacy of the individual, we aren’t providing this information to the public,’ the CDC spokesman told AP.

All four flight attendants were quarantined for two weeks once they arrived at Los Angeles, ‘per written guidelines,’ said Taylor Garland, spokeswoman for Association of Flight Attendants.

‘Our union continues to provide support to the crew,’ Garland said. 

‘We urge passengers to comply with airline COVID policies and stay home if you´re sick.’  

The man was taken to a hospital in New Orleans where he was pronounced dead, according to the airline.

Hobart said United originally was told that he died from heart trouble, so passengers were allowed to stay on the plane and complete the flight to Los Angeles or take a later flight. 

The airline said all passengers stayed on the plane.

The incident occurred last Monday, and the CDC is now scrambling to contact the 179 passengers who were onboard.

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