NEWS
13/04/2018 05:30 SAST | Updated 13/04/2018 07:20 SAST

Jerry Richardson's Nieces: 'Growing Up In This House Was Scary'

Constance and Sannah talk about the raids that happened when they were just little girls.

Video by Canny Maphanga

A modest house in Soweto is where two of Jerry Richardson's nieces live. Richardson was the man convicted of killing teenage anti-apartheid activist Stompie Seipei in 1989, whom Richardson – himself an ANC-activist-turned-spy for the apartheid police – accused of being an informant.

Constance Richardson is one of those nieces, and she has many traumatic memories of growing up in the house.

"Growing up in this house was scary, because we were still young – we used to ask why white people were here and what they wanted. My mother would always say that they were my uncle's associates," the 36-year-old said.

She told HuffPost about one particular night when a group of white people were looking for her uncle, Jerry.

"We [the children] used to sleep in the living room, because the one room was for my mother and the other for our uncle. White people came one night; my mother had cooked dumplings and chicken. Jerry's children as well as Godfrey [Constance's brother] and my sister were wearing ANC T-shirts and tracksuits. The police clutched on to their T-shirts."

She says the intruders then looked in every cupboard of their four-roomed house, before eating the dumplings and chicken her mother Doreen had cooked that evening.

"We sat there, we were scared because we grew up fearing white people. My mom just sat here," she said, pointing to the one side of the two seater couch.

"They asked, 'Where is Jerry Richardson?', in Afrikaans. My mom then said our uncle had left two years ago, and that she did not know where he was."

READ: Winnie Madikizela-Mandela Gets Frank About 'Philandering' Madiba

Her mother then tried to reassure them of their safety. However, her uncle was arrested soon after.

"Then at a later stage we were told he was arrested, and it was connected to the death of Stompie. I did not know Stompie, but he was one of the children who used to come to our home," she said.

When they were growing up, their backyard had a grass patch where children would play soccer and Seipei was one of them.

One day her mother received a call from jail. It was good news – her uncle was coming to Soweto to visit them.

"She usually received calls at Mam' Gladys' tuckshop. They told her our uncle was coming to visit. I was at work, but Sannah [her sister] and the rest were here," she said.

When she returned from work, she was told about how she had "missed out".

"Apparently, there were many cars outside the house and I heard that my uncle Jerry was shackled from his feet up, but he looked very handsome. I was hurt because I last saw him when I was seven years old, and by then I was in my twenties.

When you take your CV to a company they look at our surname and they ask a lot of questions. Everyone knows about our uncle – they see Richardson and say 'Oh, do you know Jerry Richardson?'

Another time she saw her uncle was during a family day initiative at Leeukop prison, where he was serving his life sentence.

"We visited him once in Leeukop as a family. It was family day and it was fun. It was in the 2000s," she said.

Constance has a faint memory of Winnie Madikizela-Mandela.

"I do not remember Mam' Winnie clearly, but there was a day when she was part of a group that was standing in front of our house wearing tracksuits. My uncle came in carrying plastic bags filled with groceries. That is the only memory I have of her," she said.

Constance's younger sister Sannah was too young at the time, but says that their mother told her stories when she was old enough.

"I asked her about the holes in the bedroom walls. She told me: 'Sannah, your uncle used to hide his guns in the ceiling of the house; then white people came and bombed the ceiling.They found AK47s. She says there were many guns in the house."

READ: Jerry Richardson's Nephew Wants To Apologise To Stompie's Mother

She says her uncle was always mysterious.

"They [the Richardson family] were not aware of the kind of job he was doing. He used to leave early in the morning and come back at night; [the family] were also surprised when the white people found the guns in the ceiling," she explained.

The sisters say their uncle's legacy continues to haunt them, even when they are looking for jobs.

"When you take your CV to a company, they look at our surname and they ask a lot of questions. Everyone knows about our uncle – they see Richardson and say, 'Oh, do you know Jerry Richardson?' Then we admit that he's our uncle, and it puts us at a disadvantage," she said.

Jerry Richardson was the coach of the Mandela United Football Club in Soweto – in reality the bodyguard of Winnie Madikizela-Mandela during the final brutal years of the struggle. He was "turned" by the apartheid police and forced to spy on Madikizela-Mandela and her associates.

He was convicted of kidnapping, torturing and murdering Seipei (on the pretext that he was a police informant, but it has been claimed that Richardson became aware that Seipei was in fact about to expose him as a traitor), which he claimed Winnie had ordered.

He died in prison in his fifties from natural causes.