Body Nomzamo Winifred Zanyiwe Madikizela (Winnie) was born onthe 26th of September 1936 in a small town in the Transkei.
She wasone of nine siblings, her father was history teacher at a local school and hermother was a science teacher. She wasonly nine years old when she had first experienced discrimination as it was theend of wwii and she had heard that celebrations were to be made. Winnie hadpleaded her dad to take her to one of the celebrations, but when she arrivedsoon realized that thesecelebrations were for whites only. Winnie had manyother instances where she had seen apartheid first hand, however she could notunderstand why the black people could not defend themselves or do anythingabout it. Winnie had the privilege of attending a non-racial school as thehated bantu education act only came into play in the early 1950s, thus she wasable to participate in her schooling career alongside her white peers.
She hadachieved her standard 8, passing with a distinction. She then moved and matriculatedat a Methodist mission school called Shawsbury, in Qumbu. It was here in whichshe learnt leadership skills and became politicized. In 1953, Winnie relocated to the Jan Hofmeyr School ofSocial Work in Johannesburg, where she met Nelson Mandela who was a supporter. Winniewas twenty two when she met Nelson, and he was sixteen years old. He wasalready a famous anti-apartheid figure and one of the key offenders in theTreason Trial, which had begun the year before, in 1956. From the start, Nelsonwas concealed in the Liberation Struggle, and the limits of their romance wereset by his commitment to political change.
On March 10 1957, Nelson asked Winnie to marry him and they celebratedtheir engagment together in Johannesburg on 25 May 1958.Their marriage was to prove both healthy and fraught.Winnie quickly discovered that life married to one of Apartheid’s most famousopponents was a lonely one. Her husband was nonstop busy with ANC meetings,legal cases and the Treason Trial. The Mandela residence was also a site forfrequent police raids, during which policemen would awaken the household withloud banging on the doors in the early morning and set to turning the wholehouse upside down.
Added to the unrest of their early married life, in July,Winnie found out she was pregnant with her first child.In October 1958, Winnie took part in a mass action whichprepared women to protest against the Apartheid government’s infamous passlaws. This protest in Johannesburg followed a similar action that had taken placein Pretoria in August 1956. The Johannesburg protest was controlled by thepresident of the ANC Women’s League, Lilian Ngoyi and Albertina Sisulu, amongstothers. The protest occurred in the city centre. During the protest, the policearrested 1000 women.
On March 30 1961, nine days after the police murderedsixty-nine people during a Pan African Congress (PAC) anti-pass demonstrationat Sharpeville, a police raid on the Mandela home saw Nelson arrested andWinnie left by herself, in what would become her overarching experience ofmarriage. Winnie had a few influential presences in her life, amongst them wereLillian Ngoyi, who, along with Helen Joseph, were the only two women accused inthe Treason Trial; Albertina Sisulu; Florence Matomela; Frances Baard; KateMolale; Ruth Mompati; Hilda Bernstein (who was the first Communist Party memberto serve on the Johannesburg Council in the 1940s); and Ruth First. These werepeople who Winnie was able to consider not only as sources of inspiration, butas trusted confidantes. This is significant, because as Winnie’s struggleagainst government continued, her inner circle became consistently infiltratedby people who would gain her trust as allies, only to reveal themselves lateras spies. As Nelson spent increasing amounts of time in police custody orunderground, the number of unsettling relationships Winnie established withpeople who would turn out to be police informers also seemed to increase. AsBezdrob has written about Johannesburg at the time, it was “a cesspool ofinformers” and unfortunately for Winnie, she appeared to be surrounded by spies.After this, Winnie had appeared in many trails and becamevery well known. The most important and interesting point in history was whathappened to Stompei Seipei, a fourteen-year-old activist, in 1988.
At the TRChearing, the extent of clearness surrounding his death amounted to thefollowing: that he went missing from his home, was beaten and ultimatelymurdered with a pair of gardening shears. During the TRC it emerged thatStompie, along with three other missing boys, Gabriel Mekgwe, Thabiso Mono andKenneth Kgase, was in the company of MUFC (Mandela United Football Club)members prior to his disappearance and murder. Stompie’s body was discovered onthe outskirts of Soweto on January 4. Evidently, he had undergone a severebeating prior to his murder and Winnie’s old friend, Dr Abu-Baker Asvat hadseen him for the injuries he sustained. Dr Asvat reported that Stompie wasvomiting and could not eat and declared that he had suffered permanentbrain-damage. On January 7, one of the other boys who had been with Stompie atWinnie’s home in Soweto, Kenneth Kgase, escaped and contacted Father PaulVerryn, a Christian priest whom Winnie alleged was guilty of abusing children inhis care.
Verryn took Kgase to a doctor and then to his friend Geoff Budlender,a lawyer, where Kgase described abductions and assaults perpetrated by MUFC.On 27 January, Dr Asvat himself was murdered by two youngmen posing as patients. Cyril Mbatha and Nicholas Dlamini were subequentlyconvicted of his murder. By February 12, the murders of Stompie and Dr Asvat,along with rumors concerning MUFC, came to the attention of The Sunday Star.They broke the news nationally that Winnie may have been involved in Stompie’sbeating and death.
However, as a current of popular opinion looked as though itwere quickly turning against Winnie, her name would quickly be deleted off thenewspapers front pages, for the nation’s political forces were combining tofree the world’s most famous prisoner, Nelson Mandela. During this time, Winnie and her accessories in the MUFCwere also standing trial for Stompie’s murder. Winnie was cleared of the murderitself but sentenced to five years in prison on four counts of kidnapping andone year as an accessory to assault. In the event she was granted leave toappeal and her bail was extended, with the courts eventually ordering her toserve a two year suspended sentence and pay a fine of R15 000.
However, the accusations,the trial and the liking for debate were all taking their toll on the Mandelas,and the image of the happy couple was fading fast.By the time the TRC was established in February 1996,Winnie had enough accusations made against her to warrant an appearance at an incamera hearing of the Human Rights Violations Committee. Winnie appeared beforethe TRC in 1997, which judged her to have been implicated in a number ofassaults and murders carried out by the MUFC. At the end of Winnie’s owntestimony, the chaiman of the committee, Archbishop Desmond Tutu begged her toadmit that whatever her intentions might have been in Soweto in the late 1980s,that “things went wrong.
” Winnie responded that indeed “things went horriblywrong” and she apologised to the families of Stompie Seipei and Dr Abu-BakerAsvat.