James Cowan, Ottawa Citizen, June 6, 2007
South African anti-apartheid crusader Winnie Madikizela-Mandela missed last night’s premiere in Toronto of an opera based on her life, after Canadian officials refused to issue her a visa.
Ms. Madikizela-Mandela, the ex-wife of former South African president Nelson Mandela, was preparing to fly to Canada on Monday when she learned her visa application had been rejected by consular officials in Pretoria.
“They were promised visas all week and when they went to collect them, she didn’t get one,” said Carole Adriaans, one of the event’s organizer.
No reason was given for denying the application, according to Ms. Adriaans.
Officials did issue visas to Zindzi, the activist’s daughter, as well as to two security guards who were scheduled to travel with her. “She is very disappointed and so are we,” Ms. Adriaans said.
Ms. Madikizela-Mandela was meant to be the guest of honour at a gala fundraiser for MusicaNoir, an organization that promotes African music and arts. She was scheduled to appear alongside LeVar Burton, the American actor best known for his work on Star Trek: The Next Generation.
The event also featured excerpts from The Passion of Winnie, a new opera based on her life.
Ms. Madikizela-Mandela’s visa application was rejected because of her criminal record, a spokeswoman for Citizenship and Immigration Canada suggested.
While stating the Immigration Department cannot comment on individual visa requests, Marina Wilson said, “persons can be deemed inadmissible to come to Canada for a number of reasons, including if they have been convicted of any serious crime.”
Ms. Madikizela-Mandela has been found guilty of a number of offences over the past 25 years. In 1991, she was sentenced to six years in prison for her role in the kidnapping and murder of a 14-year-old boy suspected of being a police informer. Following an appeal, her punishment was reduced to a fine.
A spokesman for Immigration Minister Diane Finley did not respond to a request for comment yesterday.