Winnie’s ghosts that will not rest

2012-12-23 10:00

Nicodemus Sono last saw his son in the back of Winnie’s Kombi in Meadowlands in 1988

The last time Nicodemus Sono saw his “badly beaten” son, Lolo, was in the back of Winnie Madikizela-Mandela’s blue VW Kombi, parked outside his home in Meadowlands, Soweto.

It was November 13 1988 and the struggle against apartheid was at a tipping point.

On that day, Sono would later tell the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), he unsuccessfully “pleaded” with Madikizela-Mandela not to take his son away from him. His attempts to convince her that Lolo was not an apartheid spy were in vain.

He said: “I followed (her into her) Kombi, knowing very well that Winnie is a friend. Winnie is a mother, maybe she will listen this time. She did not.”

Sono said he was dropped off by Madikizela-Mandela, accompanied by her bodyguards, known as the Mandela United Football Club, at the corner of his street.

“I went back home crying, not knowing what to do, because by then the very boys (bodyguards) were already going to the (Tshabalalas’ home) looking for Siboniso (another young man who is missing),” he testified.

Sono died in October last year, having never found out what happened to his son.

This week, an explosive report by UK journalist Fred Bridgland in Scotland’s Sunday Herald claimed the Missing Persons Task Team of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) would next month exhume the graves of both Lolo Sono and Siboniso Tshabalala.

Madikizela-Mandela was implicated in the disappearance of both in testimony before the TRC.

They have been missing for 24 years.

Nicodemus Sono told the TRC the apartheid police only ever became interested in his missing son after the murder of teen activist, Stompie Seipei, the following year.

Madikizela-Mandela was found guilty in 1991 of Seipei’s kidnapping, and for assisting in his assault.

Katiza Cebekhulu, a former member of the Mandela United Football Club, later testified before the TRC that he saw Madikizela-Mandela “stabbing” Seipei next to the jacuzzi at her home.

He also testified that he saw Lolo Sono being whipped by Madikizela-Mandela with a sjambok in her garage.

Cebekhulu later ended up in the UK, where he is now fighting an attempt by authorities to deport him

back to South Africa.

The NPA this week confirmed “possible” burial sites were being examined on the basis of “recently obtained information”, but no exact burial sites had been confirmed or excavated.

The investigation is understood to be at a critical stage.

Hawks spokesperson Paul Ramoloko, however, said there was no criminal investigation into Sono’s and Tshabalala’s disappearance.

Meanwhile, there are divisions within Sono’s family with Lolo Sono’s mother, Dorothy, at odds with Caroline Sono, Nicodemus Sono’s second wife.

Caroline Sono received a lawyer’s letter this week warning her to “desist” from speaking to the media about her stepson.

The letter, which claims to have been drawn up by the Foundation for Human Rights on Dorothy Sono’s instruction, warns that legal action would be taken should she not stop.

In his article, Bridgland quotes Caroline Sono as saying: “I hoped for so many years that my son was still alive in some foreign country. Now I know he is dead.”

But in the letter, which City Press understands was delivered by one of her in-laws accompanied by a police officer, Dorothy Sono states Caroline “never in fact met” her son.

Caroline Sono, and relatives of Dorothy Sono, refused to speak about the case this week.

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