'It wasn't Mama Winnie', says Stompie’s mother

Stompie's mother has only fond memories of a humbled Winnie

08 April 2018 - 00:00 By KHANYI NDABENI
Stompie Seipei's mother, Joyce, 62, with her grandson Keratilwe Paki at her home in Tumahole, Parys.
Stompie Seipei's mother, Joyce, 62, with her grandson Keratilwe Paki at her home in Tumahole, Parys.
Image: Alaister Russell

The name Stompie Seipei has cast a long shadow over the legacy of Winnie Madikizela-Mandela.

But this week Joyce Seipei said she had made peace with Madikizela-Mandela after Madikizela-Mandela met her and apologised for what had happened to her son.

Stompie stood only about 1.2m but he got his nickname for his toughness. In 1987, he led 1,500 children from as young as eight in a running battle with police around Tumahole in Parys in the Free State. He could apparently recite the Freedom Charter by heart.

In 1989 his decomposing, battered body was found, his throat slit, near Madikizela-Mandela's house in Soweto where he was last seen alive.

Stompie became the tragic victim of the madness that gripped Soweto in the late 1980s and in which Madikizela-Mandela was a key figure. The 14-year-old had been kidnapped by her bodyguards in the Mandela United Football Club from the home of the Rev Paul Verryn, a Methodist minister who had given him refuge.

Madikizela-Mandela's bodyguards apparently held a grudge against Verryn and beat Stompie and several friends to force them to say the minister had sexually abused them.

But days before Truth and Reconciliation Commission chairman Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu famously broke down in 1997 and begged Madikizela-Mandela to apologise for her role in the murder of Stompie, she had already met the boy's mother and said she was sorry.

In an interview with the Sunday Times this week at her RDP home in Tumahole, Joyce said she never believed that Madikizela-Mandela, who barely knew her son at the time, was responsible for the killing.

The 62-year-old said she was still in the dark about who actually ordered her son's death but believed it was someone in the Parys branch of the ANC.

Stompie became an activist when he was 10 in the mid-'80s. He became the country's youngest political detainee when he spent his 12th birthday in jail without trial. He was expelled from school when he was 13.

For years it was believed that Madikizela-Mandela had ordered Jerry Richardson, the "coach" of the football club, to kill him after Stompie was accused of being a police informant.

Richardson, who died in prison in 2009, gave several versions of how Stompie was murdered, including one in which he said he had slaughtered the boy like a goat using garden shears.

Madikizela-Mandela was convicted in 1991 of kidnapping and accessory to the assault of Stompie and three other boys because they were suspected of being informers. She was fined and given a suspended jail term.

A painted pillar honours Stompie Seipei in his hometown of Tumahole, Parys.
A painted pillar honours Stompie Seipei in his hometown of Tumahole, Parys.
Image: Alaister Russell

In a documentary about her, Richardson claimed he killed Stompie to save his own life because the boy had found out that he was a registered informer of the security branch in Soweto.

Joyce said: "When someone says 'sorry', you are compelled to forgive them.

"But in this case, Mama Winnie didn't do anything, yet she came and humbled herself before us and said sorry for what had happened."

Joyce said she was "deeply hurt" at the news of Madikizela-Mandela's death.

They had met in a chance encounter when they were both attending a TRC hearing in 1997, she said.

"It was not an arranged meeting. My daughter, Martha Paki, who was three or four at the time, greeted Mama Winnie as she was going to the toilet.

"I was already inside, but she asked my daughter who she was with.

"The three - Winnie, Zindzi and my daughter - came to me in the toilet holding hands and smiling with each other. I still remember her soft, calm voice as she humbled herself before us.

"The first word she said to me was I have striking resemblance to my dead son," Seipei said.

"She asked us how we were surviving at home. I was a domestic worker at the time. She gave me money to buy something for the house and new clothes for the children since it was towards Christmas time."

Joyce said Madikizela-Mandela had told her to get in touch with Ace Magashule, already a prominent member of the ANC in the Free State, to arrange for the Seipei family to visit her in Johannesburg.

"Mama Winnie was more concerned with seeing the children get an education and she was willing to facilitate that," said Joyce.

She said she contacted Magashule, now secretary-general of the ANC, but nothing came of the planned visit. Magashule was not available for comment.

Joyce last saw Stompie during a court appearance in 1988. Together with a group of boys - all 14 at the time - he had been arrested for stoning police vehicles. The case was postponed to the following year.

"It was during this court appearance that I sensed something bad could happen to my son," Joyce said.

"I don't believe he was an informer. My son could keep secrets."

Methodist Bishop Peter Storey said at the boy's funeral service: "Stompie, your terribly violent death was an unspeakable crime. But your childhood was already dead. South Africa took away your innocence."

Asked once by a British journalist what he would like if he had a wish, Stompie said he wanted a bicycle and new clothes.


Former police commissioner George Fivaz this week rubbished allegations that have hung over the head of Winnie Madikizela-Mandela for the murder of Stompie Seipei. Fivaz revealed that an investigation had found no evidence linking Madikizela-Mandela to the 14-year-old’s murder. Fivaz, who was appointed police chief in 1995, ordered the reopening of the Seipei murder case. “There was not a single piece of information that fingered Winnie to say shewas responsible . . . maybe personally responsible . . . for the murder, that she gave instructions for Stompie to be eliminated”