79.6 F
Cruz Bay
Saturday, December 9, 2023


March 27, 2001 — Tuesday's Senate Finance Committee hearing on St. Croix includes on its agenda a bill to appropriate $50,000 from the Tourism Revolving Fund to "provide for the travel and other expenses to the Virgin Islands" for controversial South African activist Winnie Mandikizela-Mandela to visit the territory.
Since a story appeared in the Source newspapers last Jan. 17 about efforts to bring Mandikizela-Mandela to the Virgin Islands for an 11-day series of forums, rallies and other speeches, the online publications have received expressions of concern from readers on St. Croix, St. Thomas and St. John.
One of them, St. John history researcher Richard Dey, documents his reasons for opposing her visit in an article that appears in the Source Op-ed section. In his viewpoint piece, which can be accessed at Op-ed, Dey cites extensively from the findings of the Amnesty Committee of South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission in late 1997.
Another reader, citing "a number of people who feel that it is inappropriate for the Virgin Islands to pay for a visit from Winnie Mandela," provided several web sites that give additional background. Links to these sites are provided below.
Plans initially called for Mandikizela-Mandela, 65, former wife of South Africa's first black president, Nelson Mandela, to arrive on St. Croix Feb. 23, spend a week on the island, then go to St. Thomas for another four days. A March 7 Source story reported that tour coordinator Shelley Moorhead had told WSTX radio listeners the day before that, due to "unforeseen circumstances," she was forced to cancel a mainland tour the previous week in order to return to South Africa.
At that time, Moorhead called on the public and private sectors to provide funding to bring Mandikizela-Mandela to the territory later. Gov. Charles W. Turnbull had earlier said the government could not help with the estimated $330,000 projected to bring her to the islands but would be able to provide security and lodging for her.
Moorhead said he met Mandikizela-Mandela through his work at Business Systems Integrated International, an African development firm. In January, he touted Mandikizela-Mandela as representing the spirit of the destruction of apartheid in her country. "If she can do that, she can inspire us to do anything," he said. He also described her as an advocate for children's and women's rights and as "a definitive catalyst to unite people" and said her visit to the territory would attract international media attention that would promote the territory.
‘Almost the O.J. Simpson of South Africa'
Mandikizela-Mandela's detractors point to documentation of her complicity – and, according to witnesses, her active participation – in the brutal torture and murder of several children, including the much-publicized death in 1988 of 14-year-old Stompie Seipei. In that case, she was convicted three years later of kidnaping and assault but successfully appealed the assault conviction; the court fined her but waived a six-year prison sentence.
As Charlotte Bauer of Johannesburg's Sunday Times newspaper put it, Mandikizela-Mandela is in some respects the O.J. Simpson of South Africa. Her credentials in the decades of struggle against apartheid are sterling: She was active in the liberation struggle in the 1950s and more so after marrying Mandela, who spent 27 years in prison. Active in the African National Congress political party, she was subjected by the apartheid government to banishment to a remote town and to imprisonment and torture several times, including solitary confinement for 18 months.
Bauer compared her to Simpson in a discussion on a Public Broadcasting System MacNeil-Lehrer NewsHour report in December 1997 at the time of Mandikizela-Mandela's testimony before the Amnesty Committee, which conflicted with that of those accusing her of atrocities. "She's almost the O.J. Simpson of South Africa in that her guilt is not an issue for her supporters," the Johannesburg journalist said. Bauer added that the Amnesty Committee testimony produced "nothing new" in terms of information and said she was unsure whether "the guilt issue – guilty or not guilty – hasn't already been played out in South Africa, and that's why it has more symbolic significance than anything else."
In the same PBS program, Richard Mkhondo, a Washington correspondent for South African newspapers, said if South Africa's voters chose individual candidates for office rather than a ruling party, Mandikizela-Mandela would probably win election despite the controversies. "Winnie represents a lot of people," he said. "The poorest of the poor are the majority in South Africa. Winnie speaks their language, and she understands their feelings."
Mkhondo added, "People should understand the circumstances – the circumstances under which we lived and under which she lived. And those were terrible times."
Different time frames, different perspectives
For a PBS account of testimony before the Amnesty Committee with a link to the discussion that followed with Mkhondo and Bauer, go to www.pbc.org/newshour.
For a complimentary, albeit outdated, African National Congress biography of Mandikizela-Mandela that traces her development from childhood to degrees in social work and political science to her intense involvement in the liberation struggle and repeated imprisonment into the late 1970s, see www.anc.org.za/people/mandela.
And for a 1995 account from The News and Observer newspaper of Raleigh, N.C., that highlights her ability to rebound again and again from controversy and adversity, see www2.nando.net. This article includes references to the Stompie Seipei case, the breakup of the Mandelas' marriage and Mandikizela-Mandela's political undoing, comeback and further undoing up to 1995, two years before her appearance before the Amnesty Committee.
On Tuesday, the Finance Committee, chaired by Sen. Alicia "Chucky" Hansen, is considering Bill No. 24-0015, sponsored by Sen. Adelbert Bryan, to appropriate $50,000 from the Tourism Revolving Fund "to provide for the travel and other expenses to the Virgin Islands for the Honorable Winnie Mandela."
Aside from the issues surrounding Mandikizela-Mandela, many in the Virgin Islands community have repeatedly criticized the Legislature for appropriating money from the tourism fund for pet projects, as well as for carnival activities on St. Thomas, St. Croix and St. John. By law, the funds, derived from the hotel room tax, are to be used exclusively to promote tourism and economic development.
In addition to "Chucky" Hansen, the Finance Committee members are Norma Pickard-Samuel, vice chair; and Douglas Canton Jr., Donald "Ducks" Cole, Adlah "Foncie" Donastorg Jr., Carlton Dowe and Norman Jn Baptiste.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Keeping our community informed is our top priority.
If you have a news tip to share, please call or text us at 340-228-8784.

Support local + independent journalism in the U.S. Virgin Islands

Unlike many news organizations, we haven't put up a paywall – we want to keep our journalism as accessible as we can. Our independent journalism costs time, money and hard work to keep you informed, but we do it because we believe that it matters. We know that informed communities are empowered ones. If you appreciate our reporting and want to help make our future more secure, please consider donating.