The Winnie story won't end until the truth is known

Douglas Gibson says Madikizela–Mandela escaped prosecution because of who she was

The Winnie story won't end

New questions and allegations about Mrs Winnie Madikizela-Mandela have again surfaced. The Winnie story will never end until the truth is revealed. Exhumation of two skeletons recently, one of them perhaps that of Lolo Sono, has reopened a decades old question: was she implicated in murder and in many other human rights violations?

It is clear that the Apartheid government and its successor, the ANC, deliberately under-investigated and under-prosecuted alleged offences by Winnie.  The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) made the following hugely significant finding:

"Winnie Madikizela-Mandela was politically and morally accountable for the gross violation of human rights committed by the (Football Club)."

The TRC further found:"The Commission was left with the distinct impression that the attorney-general was at pains not to prosecute her...Strategic decisions with regard to the investigation and prosecution of Madikizela-Mandela appear to have been influenced strongly by the political circumstances and sensitivities  of the period."

It needs to be emphasised that the TRC did not give Winnie indemnity for her acts and omissions, and indeed she did not at any stage seek indemnity.  That being so, there is not now and never was a good reason why she should have  escaped prosecution.

In his book, ‘On the contrary,' Tony Leon discusses and analyses the whole matter and tells of the pain of Nicodemus Sono. Father of Lolo, he has still not received justice twenty five years after the disappearance of his son, last seen in a kombi with Winnie , he clearly having been assaulted by someone,  and accused by her of being a police spy.  Winnie said the movement would deal with Lolo. He has never been seen again.

After the TRC finding, Tony Leon and I researched, with the assistance of the late Julia Frielinghaus, the case against Winnie. We concluded that in the Sono case and two others there was a compelling case for prosecution on charges of kidnapping, assault and possible murder.  We went to see  Attorney-General AP de Vries, SC and presented him with a memorandum based on the TRC investigation report and other corroborating evidence.

In Tony's words, "The three cases we had isolated were those where the evidence of the principal witnesses  was ‘unchallenged, corroborated, or not seriously contradicted ...and prima facie  indicated that prosecutions ‘could and should' occur without further delay."  Tony reports that de Vries listened with intent interest and promised to take the matters under review. "In the spirit of his predecessors no further action was taken."

Clearly, Winnie has a story to tell.  She should be given an opportunity of telling her side of the story.  Until she is prosecuted and her guilt is either proved beyond reasonable doubt or she is found not guilty, the suspicions, the allegations and the pain of Lolo's parents will remain. Some would argue that Winnie is now an old lady and should be left in peace with her conscience.  I do not share that view. When the murders and kidnappings and other violations occurred in the late 1980s, with or without her culpability, she was not old. She escaped prosecution because of who she was. And that is wrong.

Douglas Gibson is former Opposition Chief Whip and Ambassador to Thailand. He can be followed on Twitter @dhmgibson 

This article first appeared in The Citizen.

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