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Monday, 16 July, 2001, 13:31 GMT 14:31 UK
Winnie Mandela: Heroine or villain?
Winnie Mandela, president of the ANC's women's league, is in trouble again.
A South African bank has seized almost one million rand from the former first lady after she failed to repay a loan.
This financial scandal comes hot on the heels of the Great Hat Controversy, where Winnie Mandela's baseball cap was knocked off her head by President Thabo Mbeki.
This happened when she bent down to kiss him after arriving late at a ceremony to mark the 25th anniversary of the Soweto Uprising.
Is Winnie Mandela a deliberate troublemaker or the victim of a witch-hunt? Is she a true representative of the South African people or does she deserve to be sidelined by the powers-that-be in South Africa?
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
Until we've lived a quarter century of pain and deprivation that Winnie endured, then we shouldn't pass judgement on her. She deserves our respect, as a survivor, if nothing else. The future might bring great things from her.
Sedinam Akpedonu, Ghana
Winnie Mandela stands for all that comes of riding the gravy train. To hear her called 'the mother of South Africa' makes my blood curdle. By calling her this, we disrespect every South African who stands for dignity, justice and truth. She should be made to answer for all those she acted against during the years of apartheid. Don't tell me it was for the good of her people... She is a selfish woman who does not deserve to stand next to the great leaders of our new country.
Winnie Mandela WAS a heroine and is now a villain. All who remember what she went through would call her a mother of the nation. But the lady has disgraced herself and what she fought for. She is an example of the leaders that are destroying Africa. I have no doubt that she is a villain. Her marriage to Mandela and her painful struggle against apartheid should not make us blind to her evils. Nobody is above the law!
As a black South African living abroad I am startled by the lack of factual insight on the problem of Winnie Mandela. It was well known in Soweto (where I lived) that her hunger for power resulted in violence, intimidation and scaremongering among the local people (including allegations of murder). I believe her character is seriously flawed and she is a highly dangerous political figure for the simple reason that she will go to any lengths to improve her charade as a 'saviour of the people'. How do I know this? She has done it many times before.
Without Winnie South African history is incomplete. Her short falls are blown out of proportion because she is a woman and has the ability to lead South Africa. Mbeki should realise that he took over from Nelson because Winnie is a woman, otherwise it would have been a different story. South Africa needed her when going up, they might just need her when coming down.
Zinabie Mekonnen, Ethiopia
Heroine or villain? Maybe we should asked Stompie's family that question!
She's a Heroine. No doubt about it and furthermore: Mother Of Africa.
I'm afraid Winnie Mandela has lost her way. She is the product of our turbulent past. The system has isolated her and caused her to become a bitter and twisted person. She is finding it impossible to switch from struggle politics to a full democracy. She should step down gracefully. South Africa needs moderate leaders with their eyes on the future, not on the past and potential financial gain.
Winnie is a spent force. Her glory was over right from the moment Mandela divorced her. The string of scandals that are associated with her speak volumes - that she is morally bankrupt and does not deserve the attention she is always desperately looking for. Mr Mbeki was not wrong at all.
Winnie is a real heroine for all Africans. She has been let down by many people including her loved one in the person of Nelson Mandela.
Winnie is no saint, she's surely done things that are regrettable. However she's done more good for the poor than most of the men in the ANC's leadership.
Who was there fighting fire with fire during the 80's when most of the so-called leaders of the ANC (Mbeki included) were abroad and in the bushes of Lusaka?
Winnie is a victim of male chauvinism within the ANC. They only want "typical African women" into leadership, and that means women who'll be window-dressers but less powerful. An uncompromising Winnie will always be a threat to the ANC's hierarchy.
This is a hard topic to discuss. She was useful once upon a time. Now, Winnie is a sad vestige of an evil past. I hope history accords her rightful place. She should be treated with respect even within the context of her fragile humanity.
I think people should leave her alone!
Winnie Mandela originally rose to prominence on the coat-tails of former South African president, Nelson Mandela, who was then unlawfully imprisoned. His imprisonment came to embody the epitome of apartheid and what it stood for, and Winnie rode the crest of a rising wave of sympathy for her husband. Nelson's imprisonment represented the death of a nation under the grossly unfair policies of apartheid. However, it also represented the backbone of the struggle against oppression, and this is where Winnie rose to a position of power, hinged on support from millions of oppressed women throughout South Africa. It was never based on her own greatness - it rose out of a wave of sympathy which drove her into the ranks of the powerful and rich.
Winnie Mandela, I believe is a troublemaker. Her former husband distanced himself from her because he wanted to maintain his dignity in the world. If a person like Mandela, respected the world over, had the mind to sack her after so many years of "support" then I believe we can conclude that she is a crazy lady and should be left alone.
I don't believe that Mrs Winnie Mandela deserves the way that the ANC government has been treating her in the past seven years. They should, at least, give her credit for her glorious past. And if you want to know more about the pivotal role she played in the stuggle against the nasty apartheid system in South Africa, and in keeping alive the memory of Nelson Mandela and securing his eventual release, after 27 years in jail, one should read his own autobiography: "Long Walk to Freedom".
In a patriarchal society, such as the African one, a strong and highly assertive lady like Mrs Mandela poses a threat to men. That is why they try to eliminate her by all possible means.
23 Jun 01 | Africa
South African president rebukes Winnie Mandela
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