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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.
Frank Shipman, USA


Her impact on South Africa and the world as a whole cannot be overlooked

Sedinam Akpedonu, Ghana
Winnie Mandela epitomises strength and great inspiration in a world of injustice and consistent victimisation of fallen heroes. Her impact on South Africa and the world as a whole cannot be overlooked. She may have had her shortfalls as in any normal situation but to consistently overlook her good sides leaves much to be desired. The freedom South Africa seems to enjoy after the apartheid regime is partly the result of Winnie's support. I think she deserves a better publicity than she is having now.
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.
Eden, South Africa

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!
Mohamed Adan, Oslo, Norway

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.
Bavin Sinakgomo, UK

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.
Hankie, USA/Zambian


People should leave her alone.

Zinabie Mekonnen, Ethiopia
People should leave her alone. I agree Winnie is the mother of Africa. Don't forget (We should have to remember)her struggle against the nasty apartheid system in South Africa.
Zinabie Mekonnen, Ethiopia

Heroine or villain? Maybe we should asked Stompie's family that question!
Rich, England

She's a Heroine. No doubt about it and furthermore: Mother Of Africa.
Winnie, Italy

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.
Stephen Fourie, South Africa

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.
Lilian Kimeto, Kenya.


Yes, she is a deliberate troublemaker

Bruce, Canada
Yes, she is a deliberate troublemaker. This is all part of her strategy to become president of South Africa. She acts like a spoilt brat to look cool in the eyes of her supporters. The more she does this, the more popular she will become, especially among the younger generation. They will eventually vote her in as president. God help SA then.
Bruce, Canada

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.
Radjabu, Denmark

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.
Mfana Mnyandu, USA

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.
Fred McBagonluri, USA/ Ghana


She is the mother of South Africa

Wanzusi, Canada
Least we forget that Winnie Mandela carried on the struggle for freedom after all the leaders were either incarcerated or in exile. The humiliation, imprisonment and psychological torture Madzikela experienced should not be erased by the ANC. She is the mother of South Africa. The current leaders most of whom were in comfortable places in exile should remember that without her resilience, maybe freedom would not have come quickly. The ruling elites now have to rehabilitate her and continue to protect her from political witch-hunt.
Wanzusi, Canada

I think people should leave her alone!
Rudolph, USA

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.
Ian, South Africa

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.
Henry Williams, New York/ Sierra Leone

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.
Mahmoud Yahya, Somalia/ Saudi Arabia

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