Director of Winnie documentary believes her film has sparked important discussions

Winnie Madikizela-Mandela. (Gallo Images)
Winnie Madikizela-Mandela. (Gallo Images)

The director of the documentary Winnie, a film about late struggle stalwart Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, feels her film has "unsettled the waters" and caused people to talk about the way the anti-apartheid activist was treated during apartheid and by the country's first democratic government.

Pascale Lamche, who was named best director for the documentary at the Sundance Film Festival in 2017, attended a press conference by the former safety and security minister Sydney Mufamadi on Monday morning, where he sought to distance himself from what was viewed as a plot to discredit the late struggle icon, as depicted in Lamche's film.

During the press conference, Lamche and Mufamadi were locked in a debate about her film and the allegations levelled against the former minister.

Mufamadi questioned Lamche's ethics in the making of the documentary, asking her if "the people who give these awards regard issues of ethics being of any materiality".

He said the documentary contained chilling revelations about people who were still alive.

"They are very much available. You don't think they have a right to put forward a version to corroborate what other people are saying or which may need to be compared or contrasted to what the other people are saying? Which would have been a fair thing, I think, to do," he said.

'Minister confirmed everything that was in the film'

Mufamadi and Lamche took over most of what was meant to be his briefing to the media, as they went back and forth over some of the information contained in the documentary. Lamche apologised after the press conference, but still maintained she had been vindicated by Mufamadi's acknowledgment that he had met with former head of murder and robbery squad Henk Heslinga.

However, following the press conference, Lamche said Mufamadi confirmed many of the statements made in her film.

"I don't think the film is discredited in any way by what we learned in this press conference. I think the former minister confirmed everything that was in the film and also some of what was not in the film," she said.

"Because he also confirmed that Jerry Richardson was paid money while he was in jail by the police service for info he was giving about Winnie Mandela."

Lamche questioned why the statements and allegations in the film only became an issue now, following Madikizela-Mandela's death and not when the film first screened in South Africa, almost a year ago.

"Why has it become a press issue now? This is the thing, there are lots of things going backwards and forward," she said.

Emotional time

"The point is, is this film a credible film? Is it an important story to bring out in SA today? Is it something that people need to answer for? Is it something that initiates discussion into a very critical period of your history from 1984 to 1997 or not? And I believe it is.

"After watching the film, the viewers' job was not to discredit the film or discredit me, but to investigate for their own satisfactions, whether the film that gave viewers all kinds of insights into all sorts of ways in which Winnie Mandela was demonised, criminalised, etc, deserved to be aired and whether it deserves a discussion in South Africa today.

"I believe it does," Lamche said.

ALSO READ: As debate continues over Stompie's role in Winnie's legacy, what did the courts actually say?

She said she did not expect her film to elicit such "a huge reaction".

"I think the enormous response is because everyone is very emotional about the passing of Mama Winnie, of course, it's a huge event. And the battle about her legacy is a really significant one."

She was unclear about whether her film had been discredited, but maintained that it had sparked a lot of discussion in South Africa.

"And I think that's a good thing. It needed to be had."

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