Winnie Madikizela-Mandela dropped a bombshell at the truth commission when she accused President Nelson Mandela of being part of a campaign to vilify her name.
She said Mandela had instructed National Police Commissioner George Fivaz to “dig up all the dirt against her” and wanted to use the information against her in their 1996 divorce hearing.
The Mail & Guardian understands she made this stunning allegation last Monday at the closed hearing held to determine whether she was guilty of human rights violations.
The claim against the president was made as truth commissioners fired questions at Madikizela-Mandela about her knowledge of Dr Abu-Baker Asvat’s killing. Asvat was gunned down in his Soweto surgery in 1989. One of the killers is now seeking amnesty for the murder and has claimed he was hired by the president’s former wife to eliminate the doctor.
Sources close to the commission told the M&G it was Madikizela-Mandela’s view that Mandela wanted to use information obtained from the Asvat murder investigation against her during her divorce proceedings. She also blamed both the African National Congress and the former National Party government’s propaganda unit, Stratcom, for the negative publicity she has been receiving.
At the hearing, Madikizela-Mandela said she was of the view that certain ANC leaders were behind the truth commission’s probe into alleged human rights abuses by her former bodyguard, the Mandela United Football Team. She sees this investigation as part of a wider political plot to thwart her chances of becoming the party’s and the country’s next deputy presidents.
“When the commission treats me like a leper and its chairperson hugs our former oppressors, then I worry about what type of reconciliation we are fostering,” she said in a statement last week. Truth commission insiders said her statement echoed what she had told the commissioners during the closed inquiry.
She reminded the commission that she was part of the parliamentary process which legislated the Promotion of National Unity and Reconciliation Act which gave birth to the commission. It was in that context that she lashed out at the commission for reneging on its original mandate of pursuing apartheid oppressors rather than the victims of human rights abuse.
Insiders also said because of Madikizela- Mandela’s suspicions of the ANC, her lawyers had instructed the commission not to communicate directly with the ANC’s legal team.
However, ANC legal expert, Mpumalanga Premier Mathews Phosa, was part of the team assisting Madikizela-Mandela, and said she has not barred the ANC from helping her. It was, he said, not his view that the ANC has been shunned by Madikizela-Mandela, but that she prefers to use her own lawyers.
He said he had only accompanied Madikizela- Mandela to the commission’s meetings because he had to ensure that the interests of the ANC were looked after. “As the ANC,” said Phosa, “we only deal with political presentations … It was a difficult moment.”
Sources close to the commission said it will not call Mandela to answer the allegations levelled against him by his former wife. However, some officials of the former Mass Democratic Movement (MDM) and those who constituted the Mandela Crisis Committee — formed in late 1988 to look after Winnie Mandela’s affairs — will certainly be called to testify at the open hearing on November 24.
It is understood the commission has already held talks with Deputy President Thabo Mbeki’s adviser, the Reverend Frank Chikane, who was one of the members of the crisis committee.
MDM leaders will be questioned on their correspondence with the exiled ANC leadership in Lusaka, as well as a statement they made in February 1989 denouncing Winnie Mandela.
The statement followed reports that her footclub club had abducted four youths, including Stompie Seipei, from a church manse. It expressed “outrage at Mrs Mandela’s obvious complicity in the recent abductions … Had Stompie and his colleagues not been abducted by Mrs Mandela’s football team, he would have been alive today.”