In this 1991 file photo, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, Nelson Mandela and George Bizos leave the Rand Supreme Court after an adjournment of her kidnap and assault court case. Picture: AP
The immense contributions made by Winnie Madikizela-Mandela should far outweigh any controversies she may have been embroiled in during the struggle against repressive regimes.

These were the bold assertions made by two Struggle icons - Rivonia trialist Andrew Mlangeni and renowned human rights lawyer George Bizos - who knew the revered Madikizela-Mandela intimately, including her role in the emancipation of South Africa.

The two freedom fighters, who spoke to Independent Media on Monday night, were alluding to controversial cases the late Mother of the Nation was entangled in, including the tragic death of teenager James “Stompie” Seipei in 1989.

Seipei, 14, was beaten and killed by members of Madikizela-Mandela’s Mandela Football Club - members of which were her bodyguards - for allegedly being a police informer.

Mama Winnie, as she was affectionately known, received a fine and a two-year suspended sentence on kidnapping charges and being an accessory to assault.

Also read: #WinnieMandela was unbreakable, but not unscarred

However, Mlangeni asserted that the cloud on Madikizela-Mandela’s involvements should be forgotten, and focus should be placed on what he felt was Mama Winnie’s immense contributions.

“Her alleged involvement is far outweighed by the contribution that she has made in South Africa. That negative part of her life should be forgotten because she has done much greater things for South Africa than those allegations that she was supposedly involved in,” Mlangeni said.

“We have lost a fighter; we have lost a brilliant human being - a human being who was prepared to fight day and night against the oppressive apartheid government. May her soul rest in peace,” said the stalwart, who spent nearly three decades in prison.

Mlangeni also pointed out that Madikizela-Mandela’s banishment to the obscure Free State town of Brandfort in 1977 was an attempt by the oppressive regime to quash her voice. “But she continued fighting; she was a very brave woman and I’m very sad that she has passed away,” Mlangeni said.

His views were echoed by Bizos, who said he had got to know Mama Winnie after she married Nelson Mandela in 1958, and described her as “a clever woman and a great wife to my friend Nelson Mandela”.

Bizos also lauded Mama Winnie’s contributions, adding that all negative stories should be set aside.

“I think that she has made a great contribution towards the struggles for the emancipation of black people and us all, and I think she made a good contribution to the final South Africa, belonging to all who live in it.

“We should forget what she might have done, which may have not been in accordance with the precise policies of the ANC.

“Nevertheless, she should be remembered for her contribution to the Struggle,” an emotional Bizos said.

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The Star