NEWS
03/04/2018 09:02 SAST | Updated 03/04/2018 09:02 SAST

International Media's Portrayal Of Winnie Madikizela-Mandela Sparks Outrage In SA

South Africans took offence at how Winnie Madikizela-Mandela's death was reported in the international press.

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As the passing of Winnie Madikizela-Mandela was reported around the world, her portrayal in the media was once again highlighted, as South Africans raged against mainly international reportage painting her as a villain.

Several major international news outlets framed their coverage as if Madikizela-Mandela was an icon whose faults ultimately overshadowed her achievements as an anti-apartheid activist. Allegations against her, particularly in relation to the death of Stompie Seipei, were repeated around the world, and many South Africans on social media felt this did not do justice to the struggle icon's legacy.

There was also outrage at how Madikizela-Mandela was characterised as "merely the former wife" of Nelson Mandela, and at how male struggle icons are not described as "complex", as she was.

The BBC carried an obituary of Madikizela-Mandela in which the opening paragraph detailed allegations that she hung on to the Mandela surname for political gain.

Before mentioning her contribution to the struggle against apartheid, the obituary's opening lines read:

"For decades she and her then-husband, the iconic Nelson Mandela, were the country's most famous political couple - but Mr Mandela divorced her in 1996. After their separation she kept his surname and they maintained ties, leading to critics accusing her of attempting to use his name for political mileage. In later life her reputation later became tainted by a fraud conviction and murder accusations, which she denied."

Many pointed out that this was not the way her ex-husband, Nelson Mandela's death was reported.

There was also much unhappiness on social media with how Madikizela-Mandela was classified in the international press.

Many South Africans also pointed out that there were holes in the allegations against Madikizela-Mandela, particularly in relation to her alleged involvement in the murder of Stompie Seipei. They also pointed out that the apartheid regime had used the allegations to paint Madikizela-Mandela as a murderer, and to distance her from the anti-apartheid movement.

The most accurate portrayal of Madikizela-Mandela was in a recent documentary, not the news headlines, tweeted @africaisacountry.

Many were also angered by the constant referrals to her as Nelson Mandela's ex-wife.

South Africans on social media also pointed out that Madikizela-Mandela was complex, but that many men considered heroes of the struggle were not defined by their complexity.

South Africans also asked for the space to mourn Madikizela-Mandela, and for those critical of her to save their comments for another day.