The mother of the Nation, Winnie Nomzamo Madikizela-Mandela was laid to rest this past Saturday after an official period of mourning. Hardly 48 hours later former Police Minister Sydney Mufamadi held a press conference at the St. Georges Cathedral in Cape Town. Mufamadi’s press conference emanates from him being named in the now famous ‘WINNIE ‘documentary. Mufamadi according to the documentary is fingered as the one to have instructed the re-opening of charges against Winnie Mandela through the facilitation of George Fivas the then police commissioner. Mufamadi with this press statement sought to set the record straight.
The reality is, the release of the documentary has painted some leaders in the ANC and clergy associated with the liberation struggle as questionable for their equal roles in the discrediting Madikizela-Mandela which was always an apartheid Stratcom project. We know this less because Malema, sought to steal the thunder, but since Zenani Mandela-Dlamini shared with us the betrayal her mother suffered. Perhaps we must at the start make it clear that the documentary, a book, article or opinion piece is a reflection of someone’s perspective.
Views on Mufamadi’s press conference remain divergent, on the one hand some regard his statement as having set the record straight, while others feel it was a poor attempt to disown his role when he sought to shift blame to the then Democratic Party Leader Tony Leon as the one to have engineered the investigation on Winnie and not him. However, to his credit, Mufamadi did throw the spotlight back on how the apartheid disinformation campaign operated.
Remember in the period of mourning the information of the disinformation campaign against Madikizela-Mandela re-surfaced and the documentary with its interviews of key apartheid operatives proved crucial. We shared in another piece the things we learned from within the week of mourning. Having had the opportunity of a formal response from Mufamadi we now attempt making sense of the claims on both sides, meaning Lamche and Mufamadi.
An attempt at making sense of the documentary in regards to the claims levelled and Mufamadi’s response at this stage is best summarised with more questions than answers, the same we herewith raise to those involved.
Questions to Lamche
- The million-dollar question that Lamche could not escape is why she did not afford Mufamadi an opportunity to respond to the claims levelled by Henk Heslinga? Lamche has subsequently admitted that it was wrong on her part to not to engage Mufamadi and also place his input on record. Her admission of this glaring error does not exonerate her and her counter of a shoestring budget for the project simply does not hold.
- The question is, did Lamche deliberately decide not to interview Mufamadi and include his input if so was it because she had already a made-up mind? If so what was her intention?
- Lamche has to explain why she saw no reason to inquire, engage or entertain Tony Leon on the subject matter also, particularly since she had interviewed the then police commissioner George Fivas. Fivas is on record that the investigation for the re-opening of the Madikizela-Mandela cases were on request of DP Leader Tony Leon. Clearly, Lamche must have considered that information important and more than relevant for her documentary. Leaving Tony Leon completely out of the equation raises fundamental questions that point again to a specific motive. Lamche, beyond her recent apology for not interviewing Mufamadi as the then Police Minister, must also answer as to why her documentary made no reference to the role of Tony Leon the then leader of the Democratic Party?
- Lamche’s equally has to explain her complete trust in those she interviewed who were associated with the apartheid STRATCOM units and agenda. She thus has to explain why she had uncritically absolute confidence in the accounts and characters of Erasmus, McPherson, Heslinga, and Barnard etc, among others.
- Lamche as a researcher further would have known that the aforementioned individuals as apartheid officials and officers were never human rights activists that fought for a cause of the liberation of the masses, thus their versions could not simply could and automatically a truthful one given the old tactics for which STRATCOM was known for.
- Lamche’s documentary omits to capture key people who at the time worked along with Madikizela-Mandela thus the documentary stands accused of relying essentially on apartheid henchmen to share what some claim the story of who Winnie was. She must, therefore, explain, why she draws comfort to not have those who worked with Madikizela- Mandela count as interviewed albeit if they had differed with her on the approach. The separation of Madikizela-Mandela and the struggle of the broader masses cannot be entertained because it suits a potential agenda in this epoch.
Questions to Mufamadi
If the WINNIE documentary and its subsequent responses raise questions that Lamche is yet to explain it by the same token do so of Mufamadi’s two-hour long counter press statement.
- Mufamadi in his own words, “People say, ‘Comrade Sydney can’t say he didn’t know’, and I never said I did not know, because commissioner Fivaz cannot do an investigation of that kind, without telling his minister…” Mufamadi, therefore, disowns responsibility for to initiate the re-opening of investigations for the case against Winnie Mandela. He in concert with Fivas confirms it was Tony Leon who requested the investigation. This, as he admits, does not remotely suggests he did not know about it. The question for Mufamadi is what does knowing about the re-opening of the cases mean? Does it imply the Police Commissioner Fivas purely informed him at the time what he was busy with? Did he and Fivas discuss the case? Was Heslinga present, and what was Mufamadi’s input at the time – if any at all? If the leader of the Opposition could make such a request was it in the power of the police minister to equally make such a request and have it attended by the commissioner?
- Did he discuss this with president Mandela and Deputy President Mbeki at the time? What were their respective views on the re-opening of the case as requested by the democratic party leader? Did he as minister of police consult and seek advice on the matter? Was he as comrade tempted to discuss this with Madikizela-Mandela or those close to her? What was his view in regards the investigation for re-opening of the cases? In his assessment given what he knew or didn’t know was it justified if so why, if not why?
- Mufamadi correctly flags the grave omission on the part of Lamsche to afford him an interview and to include his version as a matter of principle. He, therefore, seeks to use this as a means to discredit the entire documentary. Yet that omission cannot be a natural excuse for Mufamadi not to have found a means particularly since he as an academic knows the importance of capturing historical accounts on what the facts and claims were and what went on around the Seipei case as levelled against Madikizela-Mandela. He therefore like many others must explain why he remained silent when Madikizela-Mandela was accused of the murder of Stompie Seipei when she was not part of that.
- Mufamadi in questioning the credibility of those earlier mentioned seeks to question the overarching aim of the documentary as having an orchestrated intent. While the questions for Lamsche remain, Mufamadi cannot be dismissive of it, because there are questions in particular, why liberation struggle leaders never set the record straight in any proactive sense, but opted to be silent and only as in his case to react and exonerate themselves when Madikizela-Mandela for the better part of 29 years stood accused of a murder she had no hand in?
- Mufamadi must tell us did he know that convicted double agent Jerry Richardson, who was found guilty of the murder of Seipei was paid by the apartheid regime? If he knew how long did he know, and why he decided to never set the record straight based on what he knew about this?
- Mufamadi claims the following, “I don’t remember sitting down with Paul Erasmus and having tea… I’m not saying it didn’t happen, but I don’t remember. In the position in which I was, I met many people.” Mufamadi would appreciate that he remembers certain things with absolute clarity yet he does not have the same clarity of memory on others. The question to be asked, is this out of convenience that Mufamadi is not sure about his tea meeting with Erasmus? If Mufamadi is not sure of this tea meeting, are there possibly other events or meetings that he also cannot remember? Why should his failure to remember be accepted as not deliberate an attempt to disassociate himself from those whom he already has declared questionable characters?
- Mufamadi, in his counter-response, argues that the story of Winnie cannot be told by characters of McPherson, Erasmus, and Heslinga, this at a rhetorical level makes sense because one would correctly assume the people around Madikizela-Mandela would have been best suited to share her life story. This view, however, has its own challenge in, since it assumes there is a uniform story that only those of the liberation struggle leadership could relay as truth. Mufamadi does not speak on any claim of betrayal Madikizela-Mandela suffered, he has to tell us if this claim levelled against comrades is the figment of Madikizela-Mandela’s imagination?
- Since Winnie, in particular, was the target and focus of a systematic approach by the apartheid regime and its apparatus for which it invested time and resource aimed at disinformation and discrediting, why would Mufamadi disown them from having an account on her? If the liberation struggle was infiltrated by the same apartheid operatives in all spheres, why would they not have information on ‘comrades’ which is truthful?
- Mufamadi is yet to admit the internal dynamics and conflicts of an exiled ANC and the new internal structures and role players at play at the time. Painting a picture of harmony is not helpful, because the role Madikizela-Mandela played in that epoch must be understood against that backdrop.
South Africans sit today with WINNIE the documentary produced by a foreigner and the press statement of the then Police Minister Sydney Mufamadi or as he was known in Soweto in his earlier days, Comrade Jomo as the means to assess the role of the apartheid state and possible complicity of some in the liberation struggle structures who did not approve of Winnie Mandela in her role.
Madikizela-Mandela’s death and mourning and the accompanying revelations present a moment of pensive reflection. It bemoans the fact that the liberation struggle accounts are often if not always told by external people. It also leaves us with the reality that it divides South Africans in many ways for it appears the truth has many sides. We ultimately may never find all the answers and therefore the suspicions may linger much longer than we anticipate.
Are we to reject with contempt apartheid’s henchmen even when they confess as always lying and continuing to deceive, is that what we must believe? Are we to uncritically believe the liberation struggle leaders and comrades as always telling the truth, only because they were in the struggle? Or is the truth a meshed reality?