Get more Mail & Guardian
Subscribe or Login

Winnie Madikizela-Mandela and the auction that wasn’t

The reason for a gathering of journalists on a steep street in Soweto was sound at first: Madikizela-Mandela owed more than R20 000 to Abbotts College for her grand-nephew's fees. She had not paid after repeated threats, and eventually a court ordered an auction to recover the money owed.

Ostensibly, the sheriff of the court was going to auction goods in her house to cover this amount. Everyone was invited. On auction were a small round table, a very large round table, sculptures, a silver tea set and several paintings.

For the waiting journalists, this seemed like a scoop. "Those paintings have to have been given to her by dignitaries. They will be worth a lot," said one. However, the tea set was the most sought-after item.

The next order of business was to decide on a hashtag – #WinnieAuction quickly won, although there was campaigning for #WaitingForWinnie. 

Then at 10am, after several false alerts, the sheriff arrived. Cameras and television crews quickly crammed around her, forming a semicircle at the large metal gate to Madikizela-Mandela's house. She pressed the buzzer, and knocked on the door.

Nothing happened. But a window in the house, decked in flags from countries around the continent, did open for someone to peek out. On each corner, on top of the three-metre-high walls, cameras looked in every direction.  

'She could afford to pay R43'
When the auctioneer returned to her car, a ripple ran through the journalists – she's getting a locksmith. With her two assistants also crammed in the car, she then turned to phone calls. And, looking for any kind of information, journalists kept following her every movement.

At one point, while she was on the phone, she wrote "43" on the page. Instant confusion. Could it mean R43 000, or could it mean R43.

"Surely she could afford to pay R43," said one cameraperson.

Later in the morning, another gate up the street opened and a black Audi accelerated away from the frustrated journalists. The auctioneer clambered out of her car to see what happened, but was undeterred. "The auction happens even if she is not here," she said.

Every journalist present then tried to find out what was happening. Some said Madikizela-Mandela had paid the debt and everything was over. A few said the sheriff was coming back the next day, and yet more said the locksmith was coming with police. 

None of them were willing to leave and miss any developments. 

'Cut Winnie's lock'
"Nobody will come here and cut Winnie's lock. They don't want to come to Soweto, and they don't want to come to this house," said one of the sheriff's officials.

An ice cream seller soon appeared with his red bicycle and his icy temptations. One neighbour then hauled out a crate of cooldrinks, offering R10 for a glass of drink. A few township tour buses navigated the crowd, but had to turn back as the road had been blocked by media cars.  

Then the auctioneer and her assistants left. Some reports said this was because there were no bidders – other than the journalists, only a handful of people were present – while others said things had been resolved.

Her lawyer, while unavailable, earlier said the amount had been paid and all that was left was for the interest on the debt to be sorted out.  

Subscribe for R500/year

Thanks for enjoying the Mail & Guardian, we’re proud of our 36 year history, throughout which we have delivered to readers the most important, unbiased stories in South Africa. Good journalism costs, though, and right from our very first edition we’ve relied on reader subscriptions to protect our independence.

Digital subscribers get access to all of our award-winning journalism, including premium features, as well as exclusive events, newsletters, webinars and the cryptic crossword. Click here to find out how to join them and get a 57% discount in your first year.

Sipho Kings
Sipho Kings is the acting editor-in-chief of the Mail & Guardian

Related stories

WELCOME TO YOUR M&G

If you’re reading this, you clearly have great taste

If you haven’t already, you can subscribe to the Mail & Guardian for less than the cost of a cup of coffee a week, and get more great reads.

Already a subscriber? Sign in here

Advertising

Subscribers only

Tourism industry hopeful of UK red list review

Meeting between scientists of both countries may pave way for removal from red list

R350 social relief grant not enough to live on

Nearly half of the population in South Africa — one of the most unequal countries in the world — is considered chronically poor.

More top stories

Tourism industry hopeful of UK red list review

Meeting between scientists of both countries may pave way for removal from red list

Triple murder in Khayelitsha investigated by police

Three young women have been shot dead execution-style in one of Cape Town’s gang-riddled communities

Q&A Sessions: Kagiso Rabada — ‘When I retire, I will...

Kagiso Rabada talks to Eyaaz Matwadia about his love for music and production, how the lockdown affected him, and how he hopes to get back to his best

State to subpoena and fact-check Agrizzi’s ‘illness’ claims

The National Prosecuting Authority will conduct its own probe into Angelo Agrizzi’s claims of ill health, after he failed to attend court again
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…
×