Tony Leon on Winnie: 'I was just doing my job'
Former DA leader slates claim made by Sydney Mufamadi in press conference on documentary
Former Democratic Alliance leader Tony Leon has distanced himself from a controversial documentary about Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, saying it was ridiculous to claim he was behind her “persecution”.
Leon was responding after former Safety and Security minister Sydney Mufamadi on Monday said it was Leon who had asked for an investigation into Madikizela-Mandela’s role in the death of Stompie Seipei.
But Leon, in a statement released by his former spokesperson Douglas Gibson, said at the time he was simply doing his duty as the leader of the opposition party.
“If Tony had not openly and publicly called for an investigation he would have been failing in his duty as leader of the opposition … Tony Leon was doing his job and any allegation that he was ‘behind’ the persecution ofWinnie Madikizela-Mandela is also a lie,” said Gibson.
Gibson was responding on behalf of Leon, who was not available because his father, Judge Ramon Leon, had died on Sunday.
Mufamadi held a media briefing on Monday to clear his own name, bemoaning the fact the the producer of the documentary never gave him a right to reply – and then Mufamadi said it was in actual fact Leon who had pushed for the investigation into Seipei’s murder being reopened.
The documentary, which was aired on eNCA last week, fuelled calls for Mufamadi to account for his role in re-opening investigations into the murder of Sepei, a member of the Mandela Football Club.The documentary sparked an outcry after it showed how a propaganda plan was allegedly put together by some in the ANC‚ the apartheid government and journalists to weaken Madikizela-Mandela politically. The plan was allegedly carried out when Mufamadi was minister of Safety and Security.
Leon said he was never part of the apartheid government’s propaganda machine, called Stratcom.
“Any suggestion of an involvement with Stratcom before 1994 when he [Leon] was the opposition Justice spokesperson, or afterwards, when he was the leader of the opposition to the ANC government, is a ridiculous lie," said Gibson.
The documentary was first publicly screened at an event attended by Madikizela-Mandela in June last year but was only broadcast on television after her death this month.Mufamadi held a media briefing on Monday morning to state his side of the story.
He started by telling journalists in Parktown, Johannesburg how disappointed he was by the fact that the producer of the documentary, Pascale Lamche, did not contact him at all to get his side of the story.
Two documents were circulated to journalists at the briefing. The first one detailed the “five chilling revelations” contained in the documentary and the other was a copy of a nomination form in which Mufamadi nominates Madikizela-Mandela for national orders.
Mufamadi said he did not object to the release of the documentary but felt it would have been fair for the producer to get his side of the story.
He spoke at length about Madikizela-Mandela’s contribution to the struggle against apartheid.
Mufamadi said a collective decision was taken by the liberation movement to distance itself from Madikizela-Mandela owing to her insistence on continuing to run the Mandela Football Club against the wishes of the ANC. This decision received resistance within the ANC.
One of the journalists, who reported on the death of Stompie Seipei, told the briefing she would really love to clear her name in court as the documentary suggested involvement of journalists in a plot to discredit Madikizela-Mandela.But the biggest moment of the morning came when Lamche, the producer of the controversial documentary, exchanged words with Mufamadi on the spot, asking him a long list of questions.
The interaction between Mufamadi and Lamche lasted about 20 minutes until Mpho Mosimane, who was facilitating the media briefing, stepped in, saying it had degraded into a dialogue between the two.
After answering questions, Mufamadi explained the impact the documentary was having on those who were implicated in it.
“There are people who trade on their credibility. It may not have been an intended consequence but this documentary is causing a lot of pain to families to many people who were associated with the struggle for liberation in this country,” he said.
When the briefing finally ended, reporters turned to Lamche to get her views on what had happened.
She said she felt vindicated as Mufamadi confirmed having met the people mentioned in the documentary.
“The former minister has confirmed everything that is in the film and I have apologised to him that I didn’t have the means to talk to him, but I knew that it was true and he has corroborated that it was true,” Lamche said.
But as she said these words, Mufamadi interrupted her: “We are paying for this venue. We had only one media briefing. Ma’am, you may want to organise your own media briefing. This is our venue. The thing [the briefing] is over. Go and do it elsewhere.”
Jerry Richardson, coach of the Mandela United Football Club, was convicted for Seipei’s murder. He died in prison in 2009.