The Murder of James "Stompie" Seipei
James Seipei (1974–1988), also known as Stompie Moeketsi, was a teenage African National Congress (ANC) activist from Parys in South Africa. He was kidnapped and murdered on 29 December 1988 by members of Winnie Mandela's bodyguards, known as the Mandela United football club.
Moeketsi joined the street uprising against apartheid in the mid 1980s at age ten, and soon took on a leading role. He became the country's youngest political detainee when he spent his 12th birthday in jail without trial. At the age of 13 he was expelled from school.
Moeketsi was kidnapped on 29 December 1988 after a school rally, accused of being a police informer and murdered at the age of 14. His body was found in Soweto with his throat slit. Jerry Richardson, one of Winnie Mandela's bodyguards, was convicted of the murder.
He claimed that she had ordered him to abduct four young men from Soweto, of whom Stompie was the youngest. The four were severely beaten and Stompie's body was later recovered by the police.
Involvement of Winnie Mandela
Winnie Madikizela-Mandela (born Nomzamo Winfreda Madikizelza; 26 September 1936) is a South AfricanAfrican 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 it was revealed that Winnie had been unfaithful during Nelson's incarceration. Their divorce was finalized on 19 March 1996, with an unspecified out-of-court settlement. Winnie Mandela's attempt to obtain a settlement up to US$5 million, half of what she claimed her ex-husband was worth, was dismissed when she failed to appear at court for a financial settlement hearing.
A controversial activist, she is popular among 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 1989 kidnap of 14-year old ANC activist Stompie Moeketsi, who was later murdered.
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.
Her Xhosa name is Nomzamo. Nomzamo means "trial (having a hard time in life)". She was born in the village of eMbongweni, 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). In June 2010, Winnie was treated for shock after the death of her great-granddaughter, Zenani, who was killed in a car accident on the eve of the opening of South Africa's World Cup. She has diabetes.
Despite restrictions on education of blacks during apartheid, Mandela 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.
Mandela 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.
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 activism:
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.
Violent rhetoric and murder allegations
Mandela's 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 1986, 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".
Further tarnishing her reputation were accusations by her bodyguard, Jerry Musivuzi Richardson, that Winnie Madikizela-Mandela ordered kidnapping and murder.On 29 December 1988, Richardson, coach of the Mandela United Football Club (MUFC) -- which acted as Mrs. Mandela's personal security detail-- 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. 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.
The final report of the South African Truth and Reconciliation commission, issued in 1998, found "Ms Winnie Madikizela Mandela politically and morally accountable for the gross violations of human rights committed by the MUFC."
Transition to democracy
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.
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 chairman 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".
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.
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.
In late 2003, her close friend and socialite Hazel Crane was murdered. Crane previously offered to buy Madikizela-Mandela a house.
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.
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 included the world premiere of The Passion of Winnie, an opera based on her life.
Return to politics
When the ANC announced the election of its National Executive Committee on 21 December 2007, Mandela placed first with 2845 votes.
Apology to riot victims
Mandela criticised 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. She also apologized to the victims of the riots and visited the Alexandra township.
She also offered her home as a shelter for an immigrant family from the Democratic Republic of the Congo.She warned that the perpetrators of the violence could strike at the Gauteng train system.
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 that 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.
In 1991, Winnie Mandela was convicted of kidnapping and being an accessory to assault but her six-year jail sentence was reduced to a fine and a two-year suspended sentence on appeal.
This incident became a cause célèbre for the apartheid government and opponents of the ANC, and Winnie Mandela's iconic status was dealt a heavy blow.
Appearing before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 1997, she said allegations that she was involved in at least 18 human rights abuses including eight murders were "ridiculous" and claimed that her main accuser, former comrade Katiza Cebekhulu, was a former "mental patient" and his allegations against her were "hallucinations".
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 Reconciliation commission as a "cretin".
The interview attracted media attention,and the ANC announced it would ask her to explain the apparent attack on Nelson Mandela.
On 14 March 2010 a statement was issued on behalf of Winnie Mandela claiming that the interview was a "fabrication".
My husband and I have just crossed Africa. On the final leg of our journey we had finally come to South Africa – a place that now went hand in hand with the name Mandela.
My husband had been reluctant to come here but then he had followed his instinct and it had brought us to the Soweto door of the mystifying Winnie Mandela, a much celebrated and reviled woman of our times.
Looking out at her garden, I wondered how long we would have to wait to see her. We were in a stronghold of sorts, with high enclosing walls and electronic gates which were controlled from inside a bunker-like guardhouse. There were tall muscular men dressed in black who casually appeared and disappeared.
In the late Eighties, Winnie’s thuggish bodyguards, the Mandela United Football Club, terrorized Soweto. Club “captain” was Jerry Richardson, who died in prison last year while serving life for the murder of Stompie Moeketsi, a 14-year-old who was kidnapped with three other boys and beaten in the home where we would soon sit, sipping coffee. Winnie was sentenced to six years for kidnap, which was reduced to a fine on appeal.
Members of the gang would later testify to South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission that Winnie had ordered the torture, murder and kidnap of her own people, and even participated directly.
Winnie used to live, before she was famous, down one of the narrow, congested streets with small brick and iron sheet houses. Soweto is still a predominately black township: tourists come in buses to gawp at the streets linked to freedom, apartheid and Mandela.
Winnie now has an imposing fortress on the hill. The garden is full of trees and well-manicured shrubs. We walked straight into a small cluttered hallway. It was full of the man: Mandela. He was everywhere. Presents, portraits, honorary degrees and letters covering every empty space on the walls.
There was an air of expectancy as we entered. Our fixer had arranged this meeting with Winnie (or Mama Mandela, her township name) through her confidant and admirer. He is a young man in his early forties who is a well-known television presenter here and clearly an ardent devotee.
He sat us down and talked softly about her. The politics of his generation, he said, had been defined by this woman. Her courage, her fire and her sheer stubbornness had made them men. They saw how unafraid she was and the risks and humiliations she was willing to absorb. These humiliations had not ended with apartheid. She was discarded, demonized and betrayed, he said.
My nerves were playing up: my husband does not like to be kept waiting at the best of times. He is punctilious and has been known to walk away from a delayed meeting, leaving me to deal with the fallout.
It was at that moment she appeared, tall, carefully attired in soft grey, wearing her signature wig. She held Vidia’s outstretched hand and asked him to sit next to her. She flashed a smile in my direction. The air was electrified by her presence.
I did what was expected of me. I asked her if she was happy with the way things had panned out in South Africa. Winnie looked at my husband. Did he wish for the truth? She had heard of him. He pursued the truth or the closest he could get to it.
No, she was not happy. And she had her reasons. “I kept the movement alive,” she began. “You have been in the township. You have seen how bleak it still is. Well, it was here where we flung the first stone. It was here where we shed so much blood. Nothing could have been achieved without the sacrifice of the people. Black people.”
She looked at Vidia expecting another question. He said nothing, but his dark hooded eyes shone and she carried on with her eyes firmly locked onto his face. “The ANC was in exile. The entire leadership was on the run or in jail. And there was no one to remind these people, black people, of the horror of their daily reality; when something so abnormal as apartheid becomes a daily reality. It was our reality. And four generations had lived with it – as non-people.”
As she spoke, I looked at her thinking she was, at 73, as her reputation promised, quite extraordinary. The ANC had needed this passionate revolutionary. Without her, the fire would have been so easily extinguished and she had used everything and anything to stoke it. While some still refer to her as Mother of the Nation, she is decried by many because of her links to the Stompie murder and other violent crimes during the apartheid era, and a conviction for fraud.
“Were you not afraid?” I asked instinctively, but then I regretted this foolish query.
She looked towards my chair. Her grey glasses focused on my face. “Yes, I was afraid in the beginning. But then there is only so much they can do to you. After that it is only death. They can only kill you, and as you see, I am still here.”
She looked towards my chair. Her grey glasses focused on my face. “Yes, I was afraid in the beginning. But then there is only so much they can do to you. After that it is only death. They can only kill you, and as you see, I am still here.”
I knew that the apartheid enforcers had done everything in their power to break this woman. She had suffered every indignity a person could bear. They had picked her up in the night and placed her under house arrest in Brandfort, a border town in Orange Free State, 300 miles from Soweto. “It was exile,” she said, “when everything else had failed.”
At this remote outpost, where she spent nine years, she had recruited young men for the party. “Right under their noses,” she said to Vidia, laughing with the memory of it. “The only worry or pain I had was for my daughters. Never really knowing what was happening to them. I feel they have really suffered in all this. Not me or Mandela,” she said.
Her two young daughters had never quite understood what was really happening. Bad men went to prison. Their father was in prison but he was not bad. “That anguish was unbearable for me as a mother, not knowing how my children coped when they held me in long solitary confinement.”
Zenani, now 51, and Zindzi, 50, remain very much in the background, having no wish to enter politics themselves, Winnie said. Nelson Mandela is no longer “accessible” to his daughters and they have to get through much red tape just to speak to their father, she told us.
Winnie brought up his name very casually, as if it was of no real value to her: not any more.
“This name Mandela is an albatross around the necks of my family. You all must realise that Mandela was not the only man who suffered. There were many others, hundreds who languished in prison and died. Many unsung and unknown heroes of the struggle, and there were others in the leadership too, like poor Steve Biko, who died of the beatings, horribly all alone. Mandela did go to prison and he went in there as a burning young revolutionary. But look what came out,” she said, looking to the writer. He said nothing but listened.
It is hard to knock a living legend. Only a wife, a lover or a mistress has that privilege. Only they are privy to the intimate inner man, I thought.
“Mandela let us down. He agreed to a bad deal for the blacks. Economically, we are still on the outside. The economy is very much ‘white’. It has a few token blacks, but so many who gave their life in the struggle have died unrewarded.”
She was pained. Her uncreased brown face had lost the softness.
“I cannot forgive him for going to receive the Nobel [Peace Prize in 1993] with his jailer [FW] de Klerk. Hand in hand they went. Do you think de Klerk released him from the goodness of his heart? He had to. The times dictated it, the world had changed, and our struggle was not a flash in the pan, it was bloody to say the least and we had given rivers of blood. I had kept it alive with every means at my disposal”.
We could believe that. The world-famous images flashed before our eyes and I am sure hers. The burning tyres – Winnie endorsed the necklacing of collaborators in a speech in 1985 (“with our boxes of matches and our necklaces we shall liberate this country”) – the stoning, the bullets, the terrible deaths of “informers”. Her often bloodthirsty rhetoric has marred her reputation.
“Look at this Truth and Reconciliation charade. He should never have agreed to it.” Again her anger was focused on Mandela. “What good does the truth do? How does it help anyone to know where and how their loved ones were killed or buried? That Bishop Tutu who turned it all into a religious circus came here,” she said pointing to an empty chair in the distance.
“He had the cheek to tell me to appear. I told him a few home truths. I told him that he and his other like-minded cretins were only sitting here because of our struggle and ME. Because of the things I and people like me had done to get freedom.”
Winnie did appear before the TRC in 1997, which in its report judged her to have been implicated in murders: “The commission finds Mandela herself was responsible for committing such gross violations of human rights.”
When begged by Archbishop Desmond Tutu to admit that “things went horribly wrong” and apologise, Winnie finally said sorry to Stompie’s mother and to the family of her former personal doctor whose killing she is alleged to have ordered after he refused to cover up Stompie’s murder.
Someone brought in the coffee and we took the offered cups in silence.
“I am not alone. The people of Soweto are still with me. Look what they make him do. The great Mandela. He has no control or say any more. They put that huge statue of him right in the middle of the most affluent “white” area of Johannesburg. Not here where we spilled our blood and where it all started. Mandela is now a corporate foundation. He is wheeled out globally to collect the money and he is content doing that. The ANC have effectively sidelined him but they keep him as a figurehead for the sake of appearance.”
The eyes behind the grey tinted glasses were fiery with anger. It was an economic betrayal, she was saying, nothing had changed for the blacks, except that apartheid had officially gone. As she spoke of betrayal she inadvertently looked at a portrait of Mandela.
I looked at Winnie. Maybe she did not know when to stop. Maybe that is the bane of a revolutionary: they gather such momentum that he or she can’t stop. I saw that although her trials and tribulations had been recorded, the scars on the inner, most secret part of her spirit tormented her.
But for Winnie the deaths, the burning tyres around the necks of the informers and her own Faustian pacts perhaps made Mandela and his vaunted wisdom look like feeble compromises from a feeble man. No one could expect him to protect her or his children from his 27-year incarceration but now he was out he had wanted peace. He had longings, perhaps scars in the mind, fears and perhaps even wisdom that she could not match or return.
The rumour rife in South Africa was that she could not abide him or touch him during their two-year attempt to salvage the marriage after his release in 1990. It was all too sad. And though he had been prepared to forgive the past, his wife’s affairs while he was in prison, it had not worked. They divorced in 1996, having spent only five of their 38 married years together. Her anger was a mighty liability and her defiance was too awful for words.
“I am not sorry. I will never be sorry. I would do everything I did again if I had to. Everything.” She paused.
I thought of the terrible shadow of the murder of Stompie. Winnie had flung the stone that had cracked the one-way mirror of apartheid. The “interrogators”, the compromisers, were now all unmasked and for what?
“You know, sometimes I think we had not thought it all out. There was no planning from our side. How could we? We were badly educated and the leadership does not acknowledge that. Maybe we have to go back to the drawing board and see where it all went wrong.”
This was Winnie the politician. This was the phoenix. Publicly, the ANC leadership, who made her a minister in the first post-apartheid government in 1994 and welcomed her back subsequently, distanced themselves from her amid allegations of corruption (in 2003, she was convicted of fraud and given a suspended prison sentence). But for the masses, she spoke their language and remains popular with those who feel their government hasn’t done enough.
We could see why the ANC had needed this obdurate woman. She was bold and had an idea of her worth. She was the perfect mistress for the ANC in the bad times but then she became dangerous.
As we stood up to leave, we saw a photograph of a young Winnie looking wistfully into the camera. She was ravishingly beautiful and Mandela had sought her. But the battle was over. She had played her part. It was over. She had been sidelined and discarded, but since the freedom had not brought the promised dream for the vast black population, she would continue to play her hand in politics. Of that I was sure. She was still a woman who could reflect the dangerous part of a man’s dream, whatever it may be.
“When I was born my mother was very disappointed. She wanted a son. I knew that from a very early age. So I was a tomboy. I wanted to be a doctor at some point and I was always bringing home strays from school. People who were too poor to pay fees or have food. My parents never rebuked me or told me that they were hard-pressed, too.”
She lit up talking of her past and of early memories that had nothing to do with the struggle. And then she suddenly turned towards Vidia and said: “But when I am alone I cannot help but think of the past. The past is still alive in here. In my head.” She pointed to the brain.
Was it all nothing but a great loss? I wanted to know. Part of me ached for her. As a woman I felt her great transgressions and the pain. I wanted to tell her that if I had been Mandela I would have forgiven her but I lacked the courage. What would Vidia say to me if I did?
He was saying goodbye. My eyes were filling. Instinctively she turned and looked into me and her eyes softened. She walked towards me and pulled me into her embrace. “I know what you want to say,” she whispered into my ear, “and for that I am grateful.”
(The interview appeared on the London Evening Standard on the 8th March 2010. Days later Winnie denied that the interview took place but Nadira insisted that it did)
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- ^ "Thabo Mbeki's letter to Jacob Zuma". Politicsweb. 2008-10-31. http://www.politicsweb.co.za/politicsweb/view/politicsweb/en/page71619?oid=108395&sn=Detail. Retrieved 2009-04-15.
- ^ "Row over 'mother of the nation' Winnie Mandela". London: The Guardian. 27 January 1989. http://century.guardian.co.uk/1980-1989/Story/0,,110268,00.html.
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- Can Winnie Mandela's Heroism Outshine her Crimes? by BBC News, January 25, 2010
Stompie Seipei was a child activist and member of the infamous Mandela Football Club established by Winnie Mandela as a front for the political mobilisation of township youths to stand against apartheid. Jerry Richardson abducted Seipei and three other boys near the Methodist Church (Manse), Soweto and took him to Winnie Mandela’s home. Richardson alleged that Winnie Mandela initiated the torture of Seipei, who was sjamboked and bounced on the floor by Richardson.
Seipei was allegedly tortured and killed for sexual misconduct with a Methodist reverend Paul Verryn who was accused by some of the boys for having homosexual practices with young boys. Winnie Mandela also accused Seipei for being a police informer, a charge that carried a death penalty in terms of township mob justice.
Winnie Mandela denied any involvement in the death of Stompie Seipei and accused Richardson for lying. However, the judge implicated Winnie Mandela in Stompie Seipei’s death by ruling that she was present when Stompie Seipei was tortured. The death of Seipei continued to haunt Winnie Mandela until some closure was reached when Winnie Mandela accepted, before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, some responsibility for the death of Seipei. Winnie Mandela had already apologised to Seipei’s mother for the loss of her son, but maintained her innocence.