Statement by Douglas Gibson, former ambassador to Thailand and former opposition chief whip, concerning Tony Leon and Winnie Madikizela-Mandela
I am dealing with this matter at Tony Leon’s request because his father, Judge Ramon Leon, passed away yesterday morning. It would be inappropriate for Tony to become involved in a public fight with Sydney Mufamadi, or anyone else, during this time of mourning.
Any suggestion of an involvement with Stratcom before 1994 when he was the Opposition Justice spokesperson, or afterwards, when he was the Leader of the Opposition to the ANC government is a ridiculous lie. Tony Leon was doing his job and any allegation that he was “behind” the persecution of Winnie Madikizela-Mandela is also a lie.
Clearly, the public memory is rather short and any reminder of some facts rather than untrue speculation and innuendo during the current canonisation of Madikizela is probably unwelcome. Those who are interested in the truth, rather than nasty smears, are invited to read Chapter 13, entitled “Tangling with ‘The Lady’” in Tony Leon’s book, “On the Contrary”, published in 2008.
It tells the whole story of our efforts to ensure that the under-investigation of crimes and the under-prosecution that took place during the last years of the Apartheid government were put right under the democratic government with thorough investigations and proper prosecution if sufficient evidence was uncovered. I was present at most of the interviews recounted and can personally vouch for the truth of what Tony wrote.
It is not as though this was a clandestine matter: there was sensational publicity of Tony’s speeches and writings, as well as the debates in Parliament. After all, Madikizela Mandela was convicted of kidnapping and sentenced to four years in jail. The judge described her in that trial as “an unblushing and unprincipled liar.” That sentence was replaced by a fine but the conviction was upheld by the Appeal Court.
There was a strong suspicion at the time about Lolo Sono’s death and his father openly stated in public that Madikizela was involved. There were public allegations made about the Dr Asvat murder and the death of Stompie Seipei and international interest in the evidence of one Cebekhulu, who was taken under the wing by Baroness Nicholson in the House of Lords.
If Tony had not openly and publicly called for an investigation he would have been failing in his duty as Leader of the Opposition.
Tony travelled to London to investigate this source and referred it to General Fivaz who subsequently wrote saying that upon investigating the matter further, the SAPS concluded that Cebekhulu was an unreliable witness. Tony gave this letter to the Sunday Times who gave it splash front-page treatment. Winnie Madikizela-Mandela wrote to Tony and thanked him for publicising this result.
After further investigation, General George Fivaz, the Commissioner of Police wrote to Tony and said, “The attorney-general has been consulted concerning all the cases and is of the opinion that only in the event of new evidence coming to light, will he consider instituting criminal proceedings against Mrs Mandela, the only exception being the case concerning Mr Sono.’ Fivaz went on to say that if the body was found, he would institute criminal proceedings. “A possible site where Mr Sono was allegedly buried was pointed out to the South African Police Service. The site was thoroughly searched twice, aided by excavators and police dogs, but to no avail.”
As an aside, the Fivaz statement and conclusion has been presented in a somewhat different light to that presented over the last few days by those seeking to perpetuate a more favourable image of the lady.
Notwithstanding the current effort to create a better past, one needs to recall that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was unequivocal and condemnatory: Madikizela-Mandela was “politically and morally accountable for the gross violations of human rights committed by the [Football Club]. The Commission finds that Ms Madikizela-Mandela failed to account to the community and political structures. The Commission finds that Madikizela-Mandela was responsible, by omission, for the commission of gross violations of human rights.”
In regard to Stompie’s death, the TRC found that she was on the scene and implicated in the assaults and that ‘in all probability’ she was aware of Stompie’s grievous injuries, was responsible for his abduction, and had ‘failed to act responsibly in taking the necessary action to avert his death.’
It is ridiculously unfair and wrong to attempt to convert Tony Leon into a villain. There are enough others around who could be seen as that.
In Tony’s book, “On the Contrary,” he sums up his view of Winnie, after referring to her as the “charming, comforting, beguiling ‘Mother of the Nation,’” says: ”History, if accurately and unsentimentally written, should record Winnie Madikizela-Mandela’s role properly. How she stood up, with singular charisma and courage, to apartheid; but also how, in so many ways, like the legend of Perseus, she became the very embodiment of the political monster she attempted to slay.”
Issued by Douglas Gibson, 16 April 2018