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Winnie Madikizela-Mandela
Born 26 September 1936 (1936-09-26) (age 73)
Bizana, South Africa
Nationality South African
Occupation Politician
Salary US$ 100,000
Spouse(s) Nelson Mandela
Children Zenani Mandela,
Zindzi Mandela-Hlongwane

Winnie Madikizela-Mandela (born 26 September 1936 as Nomzamo Winifred Zanyiwe Madikizela) is a South African politician who has held several government positions and headed the African National Congress Women's League. She is currently a member of the ANC's National Executive Committee. Although still married to Nelson Mandela at the time of his becoming president of South Africa in May 1994, she was never the first lady of South Africa, as the couple had separated two years earlier after revelations that Winnie had been unfaithful after Nelson's release from prison in February 1990. The final divorce went through on 19 March 1996.[citation needed]

As a controversial activist, she is popular among some of her supporters, who refer to her as the 'Mother of the Nation', yet reviled by others, mostly due to her alleged involvement in several human rights abuses, including the torture and murder of 14-year old Stompie Moeketsi in 1989.[1]

In March 2009, the Independent Electoral Commission ruled that Winnie Mandela, who was selected as an ANC candidate, could run in the April 2009 general election, despite having a fraud conviction.[2]




Early years

Her Xhosa name is Nomzamo. Nomzamo means "trial (having a hard time in life)". She was born in the village of eMbongweni[3], Bizana, in the Pondo region of what is now South Africa's Eastern Cape Province. She held a number of jobs in various parts of what was then the Bantustan of Transkei, including with the Transkei government, living at various times in Bizana, Shawbury and Johannesburg.

She met lawyer and anti-apartheid activist Nelson Mandela in 1957. They were married in 1958 and had two daughters, Zenani(also called Zeni) (b.1959) and Zindzi (b.1960). She has diabetes.[4]


Despite restrictions on education of blacks during apartheid, she earned a degree in social work from the Jan Hofmeyer School in Johannesburg, and several years later earned a bachelor's degree in international relations from the University of Witwatersrand, also in Johannesburg. She is also a qualified Social Worker.


She emerged as a leading opponent of the white minority rule government during the later years of her husband's long imprisonment (August 1963 – February 1990). For many of those years, she was exiled to the town of Brandfort in the Orange Free State and confined to the area, except for the times she was allowed to visit her husband at the prison on Robben Island. Beginning in 1969, she spent eighteen months in solitary confinement at Pretoria Central Prison.[5]

During the 1980s as well as the early 1990s, she attracted immense national and international media attention and was interviewed by many foreign journalists as well as national journalists such as Jani Allan, then Leading Columnist of the South African Sunday Times.

In a leaked letter to Jacob Zuma in October 2008, just-resigned President of South Africa Thabo Mbeki alluded to the role the ANC created for her in the anti-apartheid struggle:

In the context of the global struggle for the release of political prisoners in our country, our movement took a deliberate decision to profile Nelson Mandela as the representative personality of these prisoners, and therefore to use his personal political biography, including the persecution of his then wife, Winnie Mandela, dramatically to present to the world and the South African community the brutality of the apartheid system.[6]

Violent rhetoric and murder allegations

Her reputation was damaged by what many considered her sometimes bloodthirsty rhetoric, the most noteworthy example of this being a speech she gave in Munsieville on 13 April 1985, where she endorsed the practice of necklacing (burning people alive using tyres and petrol) in the struggle to end apartheid. She said, "with our boxes of matches and our necklaces we shall liberate this country".[7]

Further tarnishing her reputation were accusations by her bodyguard, Jerry Richardson, that Winnie Madikizela-Mandela ordered kidnapping and murder. On 29 December 1988, Richardson abducted 14-year-old James Seipei (also known as Stompie Moeketsi) and three other youths from the home of Methodist minister Rev. Paul Verryn. Mrs. Mandela claimed that she had the youth taken to her home because she suspected the reverend was sexually abusing them. The four were beaten in order to get them to admit to sex with the reverend and Seipei was also accused of being an informer. Seipei's body was found in a field with stab wounds to the throat on 6 January 1989.[8] This incident became a cause célèbre for the apartheid government. In 1991, she was convicted of kidnapping and being an accessory to assault in connection with the death of Seipei. Her six-year jail sentence was reduced to a fine on appeal.


During South Africa's transition to democracy, she adopted a far less conciliatory attitude than her husband toward the dominant white community. Despite being on her husband's arm when he was released in 1990, the first time the two had been seen in public for nearly thirty years, the Mandelas' 38-year marriage ended when they separated in April 1992 after it was revealed that she had been unfaithful to Nelson during his imprisonment. The couple divorced in March 1996. She then adopted the surname Madikizela-Mandela. Appointed Deputy Minister of Arts, Culture, Science and Technology in the first post-Apartheid government (May 1994), she was dismissed eleven months later following allegations of corruption.[9]

She remained popular among many ANC supporters, and, in December 1993 and April 1997, she was elected president of the ANC Women's League, though she withdrew her candidacy for ANC Deputy President at the movement's Mafikeng conference in December 1997. In 1997, she appeared before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Archbishop Desmond Tutu as chair of the commission recognised her importance in the anti-apartheid struggle, but also begged her to apologize and to admit her mistakes. In a guarded response, she echoed his words, admitting that "things went horribly wrong". [10]

Fraud conviction

On 24 April 2003, she was found guilty on 43 counts of fraud and 25 of theft, and her broker, Addy Moolman, was convicted on 58 counts of fraud and 25 of theft. Both had pleaded not guilty to the charges, which related to money taken from loan applicants' accounts for a funeral fund, but from which the applicants did not benefit. Madikizela-Mandela was sentenced to five years in prison.[11]

Shortly after the conviction, she resigned from all leadership positions in the ANC, including her parliamentary seat and the presidency of the ANC Women's League.[12]

In late 2003, her close friend and socialite Hazel Crane was murdered. Crane previously offered to buy Madikizela-Mandela a house.[13]

In July 2004, an appeal judge of the Pretoria High Court ruled that "the crimes were not committed for personal gain". The judge overturned the conviction for theft, but upheld the one for fraud, handing her a three years and six months suspended sentence.[14]

Visa denial by Canada

In June 2007, the Canadian High Commission in South Africa declined to grant Winnie Mandela a visa to travel to Toronto, Canada, where she was scheduled to attend a gala fundraising concert organised by arts organization MusicaNoir, which including the world premiere of The Passion of Winnie, an opera based on her life.[15]

Return to politics

When the ANC announced the election of its National Executive Committee on 21 December 2007, Mandela placed first with 2845 votes.[16][17]

Apology to riot victims

Mandela criticized the anti-immigrant violence in May-June 2008 that began in Johannesburg and spread throughout the country, and blamed the government's lack of suitable housing provisions for the sentiments behind the riots.[18] She also apologized to the victims of the riots[19] and visited the Alexandra township.[20]

She also offered her home as a shelter for an immigrant family from the Democratic Republic of the Congo.[21] She warned that the perpetrators of the violence could strike at the Gauteng train system.[22]

2009 general election

Mandela secured fifth place on the ANC's electoral list for the 2009 general election, behind party president and current President of South Africa Jacob Zuma, former President of South Africa Kgalema Motlanthe, Deputy President of South Africa Baleka Mbete, and Finance Minister Trevor Manuel. An article in The Observer' suggested than her position near the top of the list indicated that the party's leadership saw her as a valuable asset in the election with regard to solidifying support among the party's grassroots and the poor.[23]

2010 interview with Nadira Naipaul

In 2010, Madikizela-Mandela was interviewed by Nadira Naipaul. In the interview, she attacked her ex-husband, claiming that he had "let blacks down", claiming that he was only "wheeled out to collect money", and that he is "nothing more than a foundation". She further attacked his decision to accept the Nobel Peace Prize with FW De Klerk. Among other things, she also claimed that Mandela was no longer "accessible" to her daughters. She referred to archbishop Desmond Tutu, in his capacity as the head of the Truth and Reconcilliation comission as a "cretin".[24]

The interview attracted media attention[25][26], and the ANC announced it would ask her to explain the apparent attack on Nelson Mandela[27].

On 14/March/2010 a statement was issued on behalf of Winnie Mandela claiming that the interview was a "fabrication"[28]

Film and television portrayal

She was first portrayed by Alfre Woodard in the TV movie Mandela. Tina Lifford portrayed Winnie Mandela in the 1997 TV drama Mandela and De Klerk[29]; Sophie Okonedo portrayed her in the BBC television drama Mrs Mandela, first broadcast on BBC Four on 25 January 2010.[30]

Jennifer Hudson will play her in the upcoming 2010 biopic film, Winnie, to be directed by Darrell J. Roodt. Andre Pieterse, Roodt and Paul L. Johnson based the film's script based on the Anne Marie du Preez Bezdrob's biography, Winnie Mandela: A Life.[31] The Creative Workers Union of South Africa have opposed this choice, stating they will push for a moratorium on the film if the casting is not reversed.[32] Winnie Mandela has threatened legal action over this film claiming she was not 'consulted' about the film.


  1. ^ "Winnie says evidence against her is 'ludicrous'". BBC News. 1997-12-04. Retrieved 2009-08-25. 
  2. ^ "Winnie Mandela 'can run in poll'". BBC News. 2009-03-23. Retrieved 2009-03-24. 
  3. ^ Winnifred (Winnie) Madikizela-Mandela
  4. ^ Reported in Diabetes Health, 2000
  5. ^ "Nomzamo Nobandla Winnifred MADIKIZELA-MANDELA". African National Congress. Retrieved 2010-01-24. "In 1969 she became one of the first detainees under Section 6 of the notorious Terrorism Act. She was detained for 18 months in solitary confinement in the condemned cell at Pretoria Central before being charged under the Suppression of Communism Act." 
  6. ^ "Thabo Mbeki's letter to Jacob Zuma". Politicsweb. 2008-10-31. Retrieved 2009-04-15. 
  7. ^ "Row over 'mother of the nation' Winnie Mandela". The Guardian. 27 January 1989.,,110268,00.html. 
  8. ^ "Winnie Mandela Aide Guilty of Murder". The New York Times. 26 May 1990. 
  9. ^ Fred Bridgland (2003-04-26). "Winnie Mandela's fall from grace". The Scotsman. Retrieved 2009-03-24. 
  10. ^ "Facing the Past". PBS NewsHour. December 4, 1997. 
  11. ^ "ANC: We won't dump Winnie". Sunday Times (South Africa). 27 April 2003. 
  12. ^ "Winnie Mandela resigns ANC posts". CNN. 25 April 2003. 
  13. ^ "High society rocked by the shady past of one of its own". The Age. 2004-12-24. 
  14. ^ "Winnie: No personal gain". News24. 7 May 2004.,,2-7-1442_1553061,00.html. 
  15. ^ "Winnie Mandela denied entry to Canada for arts gala". 2007-06-05. Retrieved 2007-06-05. 
  16. ^ Newly-elected National Executive Committee,ANC Website, Retrieved on 21 December 2007
  17. ^ Winnie Mandela tops ANC election list, The Times, 21 December 2007
  18. ^ Winnie speaks out on SA's issues
  19. ^ Refugees flee South Africa attacks
  20. ^ Winnie visits Alexandra
  21. ^ Winnie adopts refugee family
  22. ^ S.Africa attacks may spread to trains - Mandela ex-wife
  23. ^ Winnie set for shock comeback to ANC politics
  24. ^ Nadira Naipaul: . "How Nelson Mandela betrayed us, says ex-wife Winnie". London Evening Standard. 8 March, 2010
  25. ^ Winnie Mandela accuses Nelson of letting down South Africa's blacks. Telegraph, 14 March 2010
  26. ^ Colin Fernandez: "Winnie Mandela accuses Nelson of 'betraying' the blacks of South Africa [". Daily Mail, 9 March 2010
  27. ^ Murray Williams and Caiphus Kgosana: "News - South Africa: 'Madiba let us down'". Retrieved 2010-03-14. 
  28. ^ 'Ms Naipaul is a liar and a fraud'. Times Live/Sunday Times, 14 March 2010
  29. ^
  30. ^ Dowell, Ben (11 March 2009). "BBC commissions Winnie Mandela drama". (Guardian News and Media). Retrieved 11 March 2009. 
  31. ^ Jennifer Hudson to star in 'Winnie'
  32. ^ "South African actors 'want Hudson out of Mandela film'". American Free Press. 7 December 2009. Retrieved 8 December 2009. 

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Preceded by
Michael Kelly
Rector of the University of Glasgow
Succeeded by
Pat Kane


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