Sydney Mufamadi pushes back against Winnie documentary's claims

Former minister says it was DP leader Tony Leon who asked then-police commissioner George Fivaz to look into matter.

Mufamadi distances himself from plot to discredit Madikizela-Mandela

Former safety and security minister Sydney Mufamadi has moved to distance himself from a plot to discredit late struggle hero Winnie Madikizela-Mandela.

He held a media briefing at the St George’s Anglican Church in Parktown on Monday morning, in a bid to correct some of the allegations levelled against him in a documentary about the liberation hero. Mufamadi denied ever giving orders for the case of Moeketsi "Stompie" Seipei’s murder against Madikizela-Mandela to be reopened.

"As far as operational issues are concerned, deciding whether to open or close investigation, that is the province of the national commissioner, not the responsibility of the minister,” said Mufamadi.

He told journalists that it was then-Democratic Party leader Tony Leon who asked then-police commissioner George Fivaz to look into the matter.

The former minister also claimed that those who had come forward to clear the struggle hero’s name, like Fivaz, had already done so in the past.

The award-winning documentary, simply titled Winnie , tells the story of how she carried the liberation movement while many of its leaders were imprisoned or in exile. It also explores the problematic relationship between the African National Congress and the United Democratic Front following the Stompie murder allegations and rumours of Madikizela-Mandela's infidelity.

Mufamadi, in a briefing that lasted two hours, talked about some of the events in the country at the time. He admitted that he had knowledge of the decision to reopen the investigation, but that he had no say in how Fivaz would go about doing his job.


"He could not do an investigation of that kind without telling the minister. It’s an investigation focused on a public representative - a Member of Parliament, Winnie Mandela - who was part of this movement that brought about change in the country, and so on," he said.

While discussing the brutality of the apartheid system, Mufamadi said they had known about the strategic communication (Stratcom) unit of the apartheid government, and its work.

"Discussing with comrades in Lusaka, I was very clear that there were Stratcom operations, intent on vilifying comrade Winnie as a way of vilifying us,” he said.

Responding to SABC economics editor Thandeka Gqubule, who has been accused of being one of 40 journalists who worked for the Stratcom unit, Mufamadi said he was also a victim in the matter. He said he couldn’t give her answers as to whether her name appeared in Stratcom files or not.

Gqubule was one of the first journalists to break the Stompie story.

"You can’t work for Stratcom and expose their operation. That is simple logic. I am not cleansing you, because I don’t have answers to the actual questions you are having," said Mufamadi.

"The files were taken away, presumably by people who owned those files. Some were destroyed and others used in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission," he said.

'First thing they look for is a lie to tell you'

Gqubule responded by saying that she was disappointed that she couldn’t find answers as to who her "handler" was and what her "code name" was supposed to be.

"Ex-Stratcom people… first thing they look for is a lie to tell you, it doesn’t have to be plausible," said Mufamadi.

Earlier, he called out Pascale Lamche, who made the award-winning documentary, for failing to get in touch with him during the project.

"I wonder whether the people who give these awards regard issues of ethics being of any materiality," the former minister asked.

He said the documentary contained chilling revelations about people who were still alive.

"They are very much available. You don’t think they have a right to put forward a version to corroborate what other people are saying, or which may need to be compared or contrasted to what the other people are saying, which would have been a fair thing, I think, to do," he said.

Mufamadi and Lamche took over most of what was meant to be his briefing to the media, as they went back and forth over some of the information contained in the documentary. Lamche apologised after the press conference, but still maintained she had been vindicated by Mufamadi's acknowledgment that he had met with former head of murder and robbery squad Henk Heslinga.

However, following the press conference, Lamche said Mufamadi confirmed many of the statements made in her film.

"I don't think the film is discredited in any way by what we learned in this press conference. I think the former minister confirmed everything that was in the film and also some of what was not in the film," she said.

"Because he also confirmed that Jerry Richardson was paid money while he was in jail by the police service for info he was giving about Winnie Mandela."

Lamche questioned why the statements and allegations in the film only became an issue now, following Madikizela-Mandela's death and not when the film first screened in South Africa, almost a year ago.

"Why has it become a press issue now? This is the thing, there are lots of things going backwards and forward," she said.

Emotional time

"The point is, is this film a credible film? Is it an important story to bring out in SA today? Is it something that people need to answer for? Is it something that initiates discussion into a very critical period of your history from 1984 to 1997 or not? And I believe it is.

"After watching the film, the viewers' job was not to discredit the film or discredit me, but to investigate for their own satisfactions, whether the film that gave viewers all kinds of insights into all sorts of ways in which Winnie Mandela was demonised, criminalised, etc, deserved to be aired and whether it deserves a discussion in South Africa today.

"I believe it does," Lamche said.

She said she did not expect her film to elicit such "a huge reaction".

"I think the enormous response is because everyone is very emotional about the passing of Mama Winnie, of course, it's a huge event. And the battle about her legacy is a really significant one."

She was unclear about whether her film had been discredited, but maintained that it had sparked a lot of discussion in South Africa.

"And I think that's a good thing. It needed to be had."



Journalist Thandeka Gqubule plans to go to court to declassify Stratcom documents to clear her name

Thandeka Gqubule, one of the journalists which Winnie Madikizela-Mandela accused of working for Stratcom, said she planned to apply to the High Court for the declassification of documents that would clear her name.

Madikizela-Mandela alluded in a video clip, published on HuffPost SA's website, that Gqubule was an agent of the apartheid government's security branch. The video clip has since been removed.

Gqubule attended a media briefing on Monday, hosted by former Minister of Safety and Security Sydney Mufamadi, who wanted to set the record straight after allegations emerged that he had reopened investigations into Madikizela-Mandela for her alleged role in the murder of Stompie Seipei.

"Now I stand accused of being a Stratcom spy. And for the sake of history, let me say I will never reveal the sources for that story, but not a single one of them was a police source," Gqubule said at the briefing.

She challenged Mufamadi to reveal whether he was privy to any evidence which proved that she worked for the apartheid government.

"I don't seek to make my problem yours and I would be going to the High Court to apply for the declassification of files involving myself," she said.

"But did you at any stage see or hear that I or my colleagues, who worked at the Weekly Mail, were agents of Stratcom? Or did you just hear that we did an honest story and did journalism, investigative journalism and we were indeed ahead of the police investigation on this matter and we punched above our weight?"

Gqubule said she was not the sort of person to hide.

"I am going to the High Court to apply to have the intelligence services in this country take those files, give them to the judge and then make them publicly available, so that we can [put] this whole nonsense to bed, once and for all," she said.

"I'm not that kind of person. I was not ever going to hide. And I felt [I should] come out and actually confront the issues [and] ask the intelligence services to set the record straight. I was never a spy. I was never going to be a spy."

"I would rather have died than have been a spy."

Gqubule said the implications of the untested allegations were dangerous to society and the individuals involved. - News24