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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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Police arrest stepfather of 4-year-old girl he claims was kidnapped

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The stepfather of missing 4-year-old Maleah Davis was arrested and charged in connection to her disappearance, one week after he told Texas police that she was kidnapped by three men who assaulted and knocked him unconscious.

Derion Vence, 26, was arrested by the Houston Police Department at a relative’s home and charged with tampering with evidence, human corpse, in the disappearance of his stepdaughter on the night of May 4.

Although a police source told ABC News that the young girl was still missing, they would not say whether she was believed to be dead or alive.

Police said in a statement on Saturday that they had obtained blood evidence linked to Maleah from Vence’s apartment and that he was seen leaving his apartment with a full laundry basket, which was found Thursday along with a gas can in the trunk of the silver Nissan Altima that he reported missing following the kidnapping.

At a late night hearing, the district attorney said cadaver dogs reacted to scents in the trunk and the laundry basket.

Vence reported the abduction on May 5, nearly 24 hours after it occurred, claiming that he had been unconscious for much of that time, according to the statement.

He told police that he was driving with Maleah and his 2-year-old son on the night of May 4 to George Bush Intercontinental Airport in north Houston to pick up the girl’s mother, Brittany Bowens, who was returning from a trip to Massachusetts, police said.

He said that on the way there, he heard a popping noise coming from his car that made him believe he had a flat tire, so he pulled over to check on it. When he got out of the car, he said that a blue pickup truck pulled up behind him and two men got out, police said during a news conference on May 5.

He told police that one of the men commented on Maleah’s appearance as the other hit him in the head, knocking him out, police said.

Vence told police that he kept going in and out of consciousness, but at one point realized that he was in the back of the pickup truck where there were actually three men and that he also saw Maleah and his son in the truck, police said.

He said that he regained consciousness the next day with only his son in Sugar Land, nearly 22 miles southwest of central Houston, and walked to Houston Methodist Sugar Land Hospital where he received treatment and reported Maleah missing, police said.

Although he told police that his car was taken during the kidnapping, surveillance footage showed someone in the Nissan dropping Vence off at Methodist Sugar Land Hospital on May 5, police said.

Vence’s public defender asked for a $5,000 bond, while the district attorney proposed $500,000.

Instead, the judge ruled Vence be held on $1 million bond since the ongoing investigation “is likely to result in a significant upgrade to this second-degree felony.”

Houston police are asking anyone with information about the case, the whereabouts of Maleah Davis or the person who sold the gas can to Vence to contact the department’s Homicide Division at 713-308-3600.

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Ethiopia Airlines Updates: Boeing 737 Crash Kills at Least 150

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An Ethiopian Airlines flight carrying more than 150 people crashed early Sunday shortly after departing from the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, en route to Nairobi, Kenya, the airline said, killing everyone onboard.

The plane was identified by its manufacturer, Boeing, as one of its newest models, a 737 Max 8. The cause of the crash was unclear, but a Lion Air flight using the same model of plane went down in Indonesia in October and killed 189 people.

Officials are investigating whether changes to the Max 8’s automatic controls might have sent that flight into an unrecoverable nose-dive. The airline said the 737 had been subjected to a “rigorous” maintenance check in February.

Flight 302 was carrying passengers from at least 35 countries, according to the airline. The dead included 32 Kenyans, 18 Canadians, nine Ethiopians, eight each from the United States, China and Italy, and seven each from France and Britain, the airline said. Serbia’s Foreign Ministry said one citizen, a staff worker for the United Nations World Food Program, had died.

The office of Abiy Ahmed, the Ethiopian prime minister, expressed on Twitter “profound sadness at the loss of life,” as did President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya. The Ethiopian House of People’s Representatives declared Monday a national day of mourning. 

The airline said in a statement that 149 passengers and eight crew members were aboard the flight. The United States Embassy in Addis Ababa confirmed that Americans were on board and said it was working with the Ethiopian government and the airline to determine their identities.

The U.S. Embassy is aware of the crash this morning of Ethiopian Airlines flight ET302.  We extend our sincerest sympathies to all who are impacted by this tragic event.

The flight on Sunday took off in good weather from Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa at 8:38 a.m. local time and lost contact six minutes later, the airline said. The plane went down near Bishoftu, about 35 miles southeast of Addis Ababa.

Images from the vast crash site revealed a grim tableau. Workers loaded body bags into a truck, while plane fragments and various items from the flight — cigarettes, shoes, napkins with the Ethiopian Airlines logo — were scattered across the field.

Tewolde GebreMariam, the chief executive officer of Ethiopian Airlines, said at a news conference that the pilot had sought and had been given clearance to return to the airport in Addis Ababa after reporting difficulties. 

Mr. GebreMariam said that it was too early to determine a cause or rule anything out, adding that a team from the National Transportation Safety Board in the United States would be arriving shortly to work with civil aviation authorities in Ethiopia and officials from Boeing.

The N.T.S.B. said that it would be sending a four-person team. The Federal Aviation Administration said in a statement, “We are in contact with the State Department and plan to join the N.T.S.B. in its assistance with Ethiopian civil aviation authorities to investigate the crash.”

The airline identified the pilot as Yared Getachew, saying he had more than 8,000 cumulative flight hours and describing his performance as “commendable.”

“Ethiopian Airlines is very, very highly regarded; it’s part of the Star Alliance,” Graham Braithwaite, a professor of safety and accident investigation at Cranfield University in Britain, said by phone on Sunday.

Professor Braithwaite was referring to the airline alliance that includes carriers like Lufthansa, Singapore Airlines and United, and he described Ethiopian Airways as “one of the best operators in Africa.”

The lead investigation will start in the country where the crash happened, Ethiopia, he said, but other countries will also be involved — Kenya and the United States, independently of Boeing, because the aircraft was made in the United States.

“They’ll want to work quite swiftly,” Professor Braithwaite said. “It’s in nobody’s interest that a failure goes unknown.”

The priority will be to make sure there is no link between the crashes in Ethiopia and Indonesia, and other countries and airlines will no doubt be watching closely. The plane is “the most populous aircraft out there,” he added.

Relatives anxiously waited for news, as journalists from around the world descended on Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi. At least three buses carrying family members left the airport for a nearby hotel, and emergency responders were shielding them from the press.

“I came to the airport to receive my brother but I have been told there is a problem,” said Agnes Muilu, The Associated Press reported. “I just pray that he is safe or he was not on it.”

The Kenyan transport secretary, James Macharia, said his country was setting up two emergency response centers to assist those who had friends and relatives on the flight.

“The purpose of these centers is to provide the relatives with information as much as we have,” he said. “At the same time to provide them with an environment of privacy.”

There has not been a crash involving Ethiopian Airlines since January 2010, when a Boeing 737 crashed into the Mediterranean Sea shortly after it took off from Beirut, Lebanon. None of the 90 people onboard that flight — 82 passengers and eight crew members — survived.

The latest known accident involving the airline was in January 2015, when a Boeing 737-400 cargo aircraft veered off the runway with flat tires after it landed in Accra, Ghana. None of the three crew members onboard were injured.

The Lion Air Max 8 in Indonesia was a brand-new plane, like Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302, which was delivered to the African carrier late last year, according to websites that track commercial fleet updates.

Lynette Dray, an aviation expert and senior research associate at University College London, said that the Max model has a more efficient engine than the previous 737 aircraft, but, “It’s not revolutionary new.”

The flight took off in good weather, but the vertical speed of Flight 302 had been unstable after takeoff, fluctuating wildly, according to data published by FlightRadar24 on Twitter.

In the first three minutes of flight, the vertical speed varied from 0 feet per minute to 1,472 to minus 1,920 — unusual during ascent.

“During takeoff, one would expect sustained positive vertical speed indications,” Ian Petchenik, a spokesman for FlightRadar24, said in an email on Sunday.

Crashes involving new planes in good weather are rare. The Lion Air accident also involved a plane that crashed minutes after takeoff and after the crew requested permission to return to the airport.

Investigations by the Indonesian and American aviation authorities have determined that the Lion Air plane’s abrupt nose-dive may have been caused by updated Boeing software that is meant to prevent a stall but that can send the plane into a fatal descent if the altitude and angle information being fed into the computer system is incorrect.

The change in the flight control system, which can override manual motions in the Max model, was not explained to pilots, according to some pilots’ unions. Global alerts were sent to notify pilots flying the Max about how to counter the anti-stall system.

Ethiopia, with about 100 million people, is the second-most populous nation in Africa. After elections in March, the new prime minister has embarked on a series of political reforms, chiefly to officially end two decades of hostilities with neighboring Eritrea, a longtime rival.

The country’s flagship carrier has undergone a major expansion in past years, more than doubling its staff to 11,000 employees in the past decade, with the goal of easing air travel in a part of the world where flying is notoriously complicated. For instance, it added nonstop flights from Newark to Lomé, Togo, a hub for the airline, that then continued on to Addis Ababa.

In West Africa, Ethiopian is the technical and strategic partner for a relatively new airline, Asky, created with investment from the Economic Community of West African States. Asky offers a web of cross-border flights in West and Central Africa and connects with Ethiopian flights to expand its reach across the continent and beyond.

In Africa, Ethiopian has a reputation for having a newer fleet than other airlines, for operating flights that are mostly on time and for having accommodating schedules.

The airline has ordered 30 Boeing 737 Max jets, with the first being delivered last year. It currently has five of the models in its fleet, according to FlightRadar24.

Chinese news websites said that the eight Chinese killed on the flight included tourists and business people. One was Zhou Yuan, a worker for the China Electronics Technology Group Corporation, which sells electronics, communications and security technology for civilian and military needs, the Beijing News reported, citing a press officer for the corporation.

Ethiopia and Kenya have drawn growing numbers of Chinese investors and tourists in recent years. The casualties may also include people from Hong Kong or Taiwan, whom China counts as its own citizens.

The Russian Embassy confirmed the deaths of three citizens and expressed its condolences, as did Canada, which had the second-highest number of victims on the flight. “Terrible news from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, this morning,” the foreign minister, Chrystia Freeland, wrote on Twitter. “My heartfelt condolences to all those who have lost loved ones.”

Ms. Freeland added that the Canadian government was in close contact with the Ethiopian authorities to gather additional information as quickly as possible.

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Luke Perry, star of ‘Beverly Hills 90210’, dead at 52

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Luke Perry, who played the beloved Dylan McKay on the hit coming-of-age series “Beverly Hills 90210,” has died.

Perry, 52, died Monday after suffering a massive stroke, his publicist Arnold Robinson told news outlets.

“He was surrounded by his children Jack and Sophie, fiancé Wendy Madison Bauer, ex-wife Minnie Sharp, mother Ann Bennett, step-father Steve Bennett, brother Tom Perry, sister Amy Coder, and other close family and friends. The family appreciates the outpouring of support and prayers that have been extended to Luke from around the world, and respectfully request privacy in this time of great mourning. No further details will be released at this time,” a statement from Robinson read.

Born Coy Luther Perry III in Mansfield, Ohio, and raised in the small community of Fredericktown, Perry moved to Los Angeles to pursue acting soon after graduating from high school.

There he worked a series of odd jobs as he tried to break into the business.

The Big Apple beckoned in 1988 after he scored an appearance as Ned Bates on the soap opera “Loving,” which required him to move to New York City.

In 2013 during an appearance on the radio show “Sway in the Morning,” Perry said it took him 256 auditions before he scored his first gig.

“I just kept thinking, ‘You know, I just walked out of a room full of fools,'” Perry said of how he maintained the confidence to keep going. “Those people have no idea.”

The same year as his “Loving” appearance, Perry landed a role on another soap, this time portraying Kenny on “Another World.”

But it was his role as seemingly bad boy Dylan McKay on Fox’s “Beverly Hills 90210” in 1990 which shot Perry into the atmosphere.

The series was both wildly popular and also criticized because of its willingness to take on topics such as teens being sexually active.

“We have done some shows that dealt with pretty some touchy topics and people weren’t altogether happy with how we dealt with it,” Perry said during an appearance on “The Arsenio Hall Show” in the 1990s. “I thought we handled it pretty intelligently and we were willing to answer the questions we brought up.”

Perry’s character was so popular among fans that in 1991 an expected crowd of 2,000 at a Florida mall turned into a stampede of 10,000 when he appeared at an autograph signing.

Several people were hospitalized and the mall was forced to shut its doors after the chaos.

The actor famously left the show in Season 6, seeking to break away from the Dylan character, but returned in Season 9.

Perry also appeared on the big screen with roles in films including “Good Intentions,” “Red Wing” and “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” which later became a hit television series. 

He made his Broadway debut in 2002 as Brad in “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.”

But it was the small screen that showed the actor the most love, with roles on “The Incredible Hulk,” “Jeremiah,” “Oz,” “Windfall” and “John from Cincinnati.”

More recently, Perry took on the role as Archie Andrews’ father Fred in the hit CW drama “Riverdale,” based on the characters from the Archie comics.

Perry married “Teen Wolf Too” actress Rachel Sharp in 1993 and the couple welcomed son Jack and daughter Sophie.

They divorced a decade later. 

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