Posted on July 7, 2004

Winnie Mandela: No Personal Gain (SA), Jul. 5

Pretoria — A judge scrapped a five-year jail sentence against the ex-wife of former president Nelson Mandela, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, for theft and fraud in connection with bank loans she obtained for her employees.

On Monday, Judge Eberhardt Bertelsmann of the Pretoria high court reduced the sentence handed down in April 2003 from five years to three years and six months, and then declared it suspended in full.

In handing down his ruling, the judge said that Madikizela-Mandela had had “a long and often difficult role in public life” and that “during her lifetime, she supported a greater cause than her own”.

“The crimes were not committed for personal gain,” he ruled.

Madikizela-Mandela, the former president of the African National Congress Women’s League (ANCWL), was convicted on 43 charges of fraud and 25 of theft totalling R1m.

The judge overturned the conviction for theft but upheld the one for fraud.

Outside the courtroom, Madikizela-Mandela sounded defiant and said her lawyers would appeal the judges’ decision to uphold the fraud charges.

‘I’m fine’

“I am as fine as I have always been,” she said.

“I have given instructions to my lawyers to appeal the judgment (on the fraud charges) — a judgment that is completely wrong,” she said.

Her lawyer had argued in court last month that Madikizela-Mandela was only trying to help her clients when she obtained fraudulent bank loans for them by creating fictitious ANCWL employees.

Known as the “Mother of the Nation” Madikizela-Mandela’s victory was greeted with joy by her supporters in the courtroom who sang and engaged in toyi-toying.

Her co-accused, financial services broker Addy Moolman, also had 25 theft charges against him quashed, but he still faces a jail sentence for fraud. The judge reduced Moolman’s conviction for fraud from five years to four.

Winnie Madikizela came into Mandela’s life about six years before he was jailed for high treason by the apartheid government. The couple married in June 1958 and had two daughters.

Soon after the wedding she was arrested for delivering a fiery speech, leading Mandela to remark — proudly and prophetically — “I think I married trouble.”

Has been in prison before

In the coming years, Madikizela-Mandela would be in and out of jail as the police hounded her in a bid to demoralise him.

In 1969, she was held in solitary confinement for 13 months on terrorism charges and again for six months in 1973, but when the 1976 student riot revolt broke out in Soweto, Winnie was unbowed, urging crowds to “fight to the bitter end”.

The police saw her as a mastermind of the uprising. She was locked up for five months, then banished to the desolate town of Brandfort for seven years.

Comments from Readers

From: Casey Crews

Her lawyer is admitting she obtained fraudulent bank loans at the same time she is appealing the conviction for fraud. Ha,ha,ha…How stupid can you be? Of course, they know that conviction will be overturned, also, so it really doesn’t matter what they say. This woman is a class-act thug. I think she was accused of murder a few years back but managed to suspiciously get the charges dropped. Can’t have a murderer as “the mother of the country”. I mean mother and murderer just don’t go together very well if you’re trying to keep the respect of the people. Of course, I just heard on the news last night that somewhere around Tampa (I think) a black 25 year old mother had twins and murdered both of them, so I guess black mothers can be murderers. Of course, we all know from the Susan Smith story that you can have white mothers who murder their babies (an act which I think should be punished by a slow painful death) but you just don’t get the relentless national news coverage unless the woman happens to be white.

From: Drew

I’m surprised she even had to go to court. It wasn’t too many years ago that she got away with murder!