Saturday, June 09, 2007


Controversy might as well be Winnie Madikizela-Mandela's middle name. It dogs her at every turn.

The latest instalment is that Winnie, who was divorced by South Africa's former president, Nelson Mandela in 1996, was denied a visa to enter Canada late on Monday.

She was scheduled to headline a fundraising gala concert last night as part of the ongoing Luminato arts festival in Toronto. Devastated organizers of the $200-a-plate dinner concert dubbed "A Night in Soweto" said Winnie was to be accompanied by her daughter, Zindzi.

"We are devastated and she is very sad. She was all packed and dressed, ready to leave for the airport when she was informed she could not enter Canada," said Carole Adriaans, events director for arts organization, MusicaNoir, the group that invited Winnie.

Adriaans and other officials at Luminato and MusicaNoir said yesterday they did not know why Winnie was barred from coming to Canada.

Karen Shadd-Evelyn, a spokesperson for Citizenship and Immigration Canada said yesterday: "She did not satisfy admissibility rules."

Well, I am not about to confuse readers by claiming ignorance or by using politically correct language to state the obvious. Quite simply, Winnie is a convicted criminal.

Canada does not admit criminals. That is the law and Winnie is subject to the law.

Under the criminal inadmissibility clause of Canada's Immigration Act, convicted foreigners may only be allowed into this country if:
* They meet the legal requirement to be deemed rehabilitated;
* They apply and are approved for rehabilitation
* They obtain a temporary resident permit
* They obtain a foreign pardon recognized in Canada.

Many South Africans and other people in the world, including myself, have nothing but admiration for Winnie's struggles under apartheid, but in the process of her fight for democracy she committed what was later to be known as her "reckless behaviour."

In the late 1990s, Winnie was charged with 18 crimes including murder, kidnapping, and torture. The most famous victim of Winnie's so-called "reckless behaviour" was 14-year-old Stompie Seipei, who was killed by one of Winnie's associates in the infamous Mandela Football Club, which was largely regarded as her own hit squad.

In 1997, Winnie was sentenced to six years in jail, but she appealed and the sentence was reduced to a fine.

If her actions in the 1980s could be excused as consequences of persecution by apartheid officials, her conviction in 2003 for fraud can hardly qualify her as a political or racial victim.

Further, Winnie has a tendency to utter political statements that tend to embarrass those around her and not many governments, not least of all the Canadian government, would want to be responsible for whatever she was going to say here.

In fact, a part of The Passion of Winnie, a film-opera to honour her struggle, which she was due to commission on Friday, seems to glorify "necklacing," a practice popularized by her supporters who killed her enemies by placing burning tires around their necks.

Winnie's supporters have argued she was allowed to fly into New York two weeks ago to receive an award for her work with AIDS and the Save Africa Concerts Foundation affiliated with the United Nations, so Canada should welcome her.

The fact is the UN operates like a sovereign government and its visitors are confined to its compound in New York, they are not allowed anywhere else in the United States as long as the U.S. government has barred them, as is the case with Winnie.

So, Canada does not have to admit her just because the UN did.

The law is the law.


No comments: