Skip to comments.Winnie Mandela Given Five-Year Jail Sentence
Posted on 04/25/2003 6:54:55 PM PDT by blam
Winnie Mandela given five-year jail sentence
By Tim Butcher in Pretoria
Winnie Madikizela-Mandela's high-profile political career appeared to be over last night after she received a five-year jail sentence for her involvement in an £80,000 bank loan fraud.
The former wife of Nelson Mandela resigned immediately as an MP for the ruling African National Congress and stood down from its national executive committee although she protested her innocence and said she would appeal against the conviction.
There was a heavy police presence around the Pretoria Regional Court as about 300 of her supporters chanted and danced the liberation movement's toyi-toyi on the street.
But, in spite of threats of violence from her more militant supporters, the hearing passed off peacefully. There were no disturbances in Soweto or the other large townships across the country.
The magistrate, Peet Johnson, said Madikizela-Mandela, 68, whose involvement in the struggle against apartheid in the 1970s and 1980s had earned her the title of "Mother of the Nation", had been caught giving in to criminal temptation.
"Many of your years have been spent at the side of the greatest statesman of modern times and there's no doubt that you've played an important role in the liberation struggle but, somewhere, something went wrong," he said.
"Only a fool would underplay your role in the history of this country but these facts are not a free ticket to get away with the crimes committed."
He criticised her, as a high-profile MP, for setting the wrong example at a time when South Africa is struggling to stave off a reputation for corruption.
"We expect those who make the law to uphold it," the magistrate said. "The court can't allow such behaviour. We, the public, are supposed to trust you."
He said Madikizela-Mandela set herself up as a sort of "modern Robin Hood" but he said this was quite wrong as she took money from the poor despite her good salary as an MP.
He jailed her for five years of which one was suspended. He recommended most of the remaining four years be converted to correctional supervision, leaving her to face an actual jail term of about eight months.
Her co-accused, Addy Moolman, a financial adviser, was jailed for seven years of which two were suspended.
The pair were convicted on Thursday of fraud and theft after writing false application letters for bank loans worth £80,000. Both were granted bail of about £900 to appeal against the sentence and conviction.
At one point in the hearing proceedings were held up as a young man shouted: "You are the ANC, Mama! I'll die next to Mama!" Police moved in and dragged him out of the court.
As they were doing this a second supporter shouted: "You are a casualty of the revolution. We'll fight left, right and centre!" He, too, was ejected.
After the hearing tension rose when Madikizela-Mandela left the courtroom with her fist raised in the anti-apartheid gesture of revolution and headed for the crowd of her supporters outside.
As police sirens wailed and the streets were blocked off by police vehicles, one man tried to rush up to her only to be knocked down by bodyguards.
She was ushered back into the courthouse by security guards before a written statement was read to the crowd.
"The dictates of prudence are such as to have me resign my position in parliament, presidency of the ANC Women's League, position in the NEC and attendant positions in my party," it said. "It is . . . responsible, pending the appeal process, that I free my political party to pursue the issues of governance which South Africa is entitled to accomplish.
"This case has helped me understand the history of the cause for which I have dedicated my life, to understand the players in the theatre of the struggle and the sacrifice that comes with that cause."
Her resignation was welcomed by South Africa's opposition parties including the Democratic Alliance.
"It is time to stop the rot and Mrs Madikizela-Mandela's departure from Parliament is a good start," Douglas Gibson, the Democratic Alliance's chief whip, said.
The ANC Women's League, of which Madikizela-Mandela was president, preferred to recall her contribution to the struggle against apartheid rather than her criminal conviction. "We acknowledge that an oversight on the part of our president has occurred and will be a lesson to all of us," it said.