Home / Observatory / Politics / William Nicol Drive To Be Renamed After The Controversial Figure Winnie Mandela


One of the busiest roads in Gauteng, William Nicol Drive, is set to be renamed after the controversial figure Winnie Madikizela-Mandela.

The decision to rename the road to Winnie Madikizela-Mandela Drive was made by the City of Johannesburg. The current road name, William Nicol Drive, was named after a Dutch Reformed church, cultural leader and administrator of the Transvaal who helped translate the Bible with help from African religious leaders into Zulu.

Gauteng transport MEC, Ismail Vadi, spoke at the launch of October Transport Month on the name changing decision, "We have noted that the City of Johannesburg had resolved last Thursday that William Nicol Drive is renamed Winnie Madikizela-Mandela Drive and the Emfuleni Council has recommended that the R82 be named in honour of Duma Nokwe (political activist of the ANC). These recommendations will be processed by the Gauteng and National Geographic Names Councils for final decision-making. In so doing it should raise citizens’ awareness of the heroes and heroines that played significant roles in the country’s struggle against apartheid and its people’s freedom.”

The Founding and National Offices of MWM declared Winnie as the "Mother of the Nation" and the city's council's Vasco da Gama says Madikizela-Mandela was an obvious candidate for the honour‚ describing her as a woman who “led us out of dark days with the strength‚ passion and determination that lights in each of us the will to do more and to be more.”

However, we should also not forget the woman described also had a dark history.

Many have raised their concerns about idolising a woman who has been charged with multiple murders, kidnappings, torture as well as being convicted of theft and fraud.

While the UDF (United Democratic Front) and COSATU (Congress of South African Trade Unions) formed a mass-movement against apartheid in 1985, Winnie took a more militaristic approach, by dressing in military garb and surrounding herself with bodyguards. The 'Mandela United Football Club' was formed, delivering their own "judgements" and "Sentences" and eventually became associated with kidnapping, torture and murder.

She was implicated in at least 15 deaths during this time period. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), issued in 1998, found "Ms Winnie Madikizela Mandela politically and morally accountable for the gross violations of human rights committed by the Mandela United Football Club" and that she "was responsible, by omission, for the commission of gross violations of human rights."

The TRC also found that she was responsible for the abduction of, and assaults on, Stompie Sepei who was held for 10 days while negotiations by senior ANC and community leaders were made for the boy's release. He was later found in a field with stab wounds to the throat. Winnie had attempted to cover up his death by claiming he had fled to Botswana. She was also found by the TRC to be responsible for the 1988 disappearance of Lolo Sono and Siboniso Shabalala.

In 2004 an appeal judge of the Pretoria High Court overturned the conviction of Winnie's 25 counts of theft, however, upheld the 1 of 43 counts of fraud made back in 2003. Shortly after this conviction, Winnie resigned from all leadership positions in the ANC, including her parliamentary seat and the presidency of the ANC Women's League.

Winnie Madikizela-Mandela died on April 2, 2018, at the age of 81 after suffering from diabetes and being in and out of the hospital since the start of the year.

Amid all the convictions Winnie Madikizela-Mandela won the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award in 1985, she received a Candace Award for Distinguished Service from the National Coalition of 100 Black Women in 1988. In 1997, Mrs Winnie Mandela spoke in front of an approximated 2.5 million participants in Philadelphia, which was recognised as the largest gathering of woman anywhere ever in one single location, for the first grassroots mass assembly specifically for woman and girls of African descent.

In recognition and appreciation of her work and legacy, the Founding and National Offices of MWM has declared Winnie the "Mother of the Nation".

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