Canada Bars Winnie Mandela
Along with Nelson Mandela and the African National Congress party, Madikizela-Mandela was prominent in the fight to free the country's black majority from the white minority's apartheid regime.
Canada Bars Winnie Mandela
The ex-wife of former South African president Nelson Mandela has been
barred from entering Canada, stranding her at home in Johannesburg when
she had planned to stand in the spotlight last night at a Toronto gala
for an opera that celebrates her life.
Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, 70, learned Monday that her application for
a temporary resident visa had been denied, just as she was packing her
bags and preparing to fly to Toronto for the event with her daughter.
An event organizer told a steady stream of reporters of
Madikizela-Mandela's disappointment even as performers rehearsed in the
background of the Capitol Event Theatre on Yonge Street. "She's
devastated, we're devastated. She'd gone a week before that to get her
visa and everything was fine," Carole Adriaans of MusicaNoir said.
The MusicaNoir theatre company, which launches The Passion of Winnie
Friday night, was stunned in part because the human rights campaigner
and AIDS activist had been in New York City just three weeks ago to
receive an award for her efforts tackling the medical scourge in her
Hardy Jimbes, founder and president of the New York-based Save Africa
Concert Foundation, said it was relatively easy to arrange the visit
with U.S. officials. He sent a letter to the embassy in South Africa
with information about the award his organization was bestowing on
Madikizela-Mandela and the temporary visas were processed for the trip,
which lasted from May 18 to 22. "I don't understand why they would
refuse a visa to her," Jimbes told the Star in a telephone interview
after he was informed of Canada's decision. "It's uncalled for."
It appears that Canadian immigration officials were more influenced by
Madikizela-Mandela's criminal record than by her record of good work
and advocacy when they processed her visa application.
Along with Nelson Mandela and the African National Congress party,
Madikizela-Mandela was prominent in the fight to free the country's
black majority from the white minority's apartheid regime. But she has
also been sentenced to prison twice for crimes seemingly separate from
her political struggle.
In 1991, one year after her last public visit to Canada, she was
convicted of kidnapping a 14-year-old boy and being an accessory to his
murder. In 2003, she was convicted of 68 counts of theft and fraud in
connection with a number of bank loan applications in the name of
non-existent individuals she said were in the African National Congress
She pleaded that she was only trying to help poor women, but the judge
discounted her argument, saying: "You are no Robin Hood." Still, she
escaped both convictions without serving jail time.
Canadian officials would not comment directly on the case, but said
anyone with a criminal record is automatically barred from entering
Canada except if they obtain a ministerial permit. There were more than
247,000 temporary residents permitted into Canada in 2005. A member of
the House of Commons immigration committee estimated that between 600
and 1,000 ministerial permits are granted each year. "It's certainly
not immediately apparent why such a visa should be denied," said NDP
Leader Jack Layton.
"Unfortunately, there are far too many visas being denied to
individuals who want to come to this country for a whole series of very
positive and helpful purposes." Many politicians and dignitaries had
already lent their support to the opera honouring her life, which
reportedly received a $20,000 federal grant.
Governor General MichaÃ«lle Jean, Ontario Lieutenant Governor James
Bartleman, Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty, Toronto Mayor David Miller,
former Ontario premier Bob Rae and Toronto Liberal MP Bill Graham all
sent written declarations of support to be published in the opera's
Prime Minister Stephen Harper declined a request to write a message of
support for the show, Adriaans told the Star. But Secretary of State
for Multiculturalism Jason Kenney sent along his support for a show
that, he wrote, "demonstrates the potential of artistic expression to
enhance cross-cultural understanding and communication."
Graham's message says that Canadians are proud of the "solidarity they
shared with South Africans in the struggle against apartheid.
"Today we remain connected to South Africa through bonds of shared values and a shared view of global interests," he wrote.
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