As we say our last bon voyage to Mrs Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, we must also appreciate her enormous sacrifice, whilst her own party had been reluctant to rescue her from a situation where she desperately needed help.
When we talk about uMama Winnie we must have some understanding that she paid a steep personal price for believing in her convictions and walking the talk – whether you agree with what she had done, or not. She had landed in a scalding cauldron of hate in the late 1980s, when the four youths had been kidnapped from her home in Soweto and the battered body of Stompie Sepei had been found thereafter.
Justice Michael S. Stegmann, who found her guilty of kidnapping and being an accessory to the assaults, ruled that uMama should spend six years in jail. She had appealed this sentence, and subsequently it had been reduced to a R15,000 fine and a suspended sentence.
I remember, like it was yesterday, that I received a call from Chief Mditshwa (the then Transkei Consular General iin Johannesburg) who had been at court that day supporting uMama. He had frantically said that there had been a crisis, and that he had no idea where the money for the fine could be sourced from as the family could not afford that kind of money.
I then called to the then Bank of Transkei and asked late Mr Merence Mbana to prepare for a transfer from my personal account and to pay the entire sum of money straight into the court’s bank account. Naturally, as limited as technology had been at the time, we had to fax the proof of payment. There had been many within the Mass Democratic Movement (MDM) who chose to distance themselves from her and her hopeless situation. It was convenient to ignore her in her time of need.
The reason for this short history lesson is that people might not know what the implications would have been if she could not pay the R15,000 fine. She would not have been able to play the critical role she had in the transition of an apartheid South Africa, to the new South Africa.
Judging by the revelations of the operators of the StratCom, I am convinced that I had made the right decision to bail her out.
Of course, we are happy that she is getting the twenty-one-gun salute, but the hypocrisy of the MDM leadership leaves a bitter taste in the mouth.
Many of our liberation heroes spent their most productive years in jail and had been forced to use every trick in the book to continue with the struggle whilst behind bars. We are thankful for those stalwarts’ personal sacrifices in the name of a marginalised and downtrodden people. Ulale kakuhle Mama.
Mr Bantu Holomisa, MP