One of South Africa's most controversial and flamboyant politicians, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, has been sentenced to prison following her conviction on dozens of charges of fraud and theft.
The judge, Peet Johnson, said Winnie Madikizela-Mandela will likely serve just eight months of her five year sentence in jail. Then he said, she will be released to use her many talents in community service.
In sentencing Madikizela-Mandela, Judge Johnson said that for many years she had been at the side of her ex-husband, Nelson Mandela, whom he described as the greatest statesman of modern times. The judge said only a fool would underplay her contribution to ending apartheid and the suffering she endured in doing so, but he said, somewhere something had gone wrong. Earlier the prosecutor told the court that she is a 66-year- old great-grandmother and urged that justice should be tempered.
In a statement issued after sentence was passed, Madikizela-Mandela announced that she would resign her seat in parliament along with her job as president of the African National Congress Women's League and other senior party posts.
Madikizela-Mandela's co-accused, Addy Moolman, her financial adviser, was sentenced to seven years of which two were suspended. Both have been granted leave to appeal their sentences and their bail increased from 600 to $1,200 pending their appeal.
Madikizela-Mandela and Moolman were convicted of using stationery of the African National Congress to seek bank loans for non-existent employees.
Moolman testified against Madikizela-Mandela, saying she personally signed the documents. She insisted she was tricked into signing the papers.
In another development the Cape Town High Court has dismissed Madikizela-Mandela's application to prevent parliament from publicly censuring her for her defiance of parliament's ethics rules.
There has been mixed reaction to Madikizela-Mandela's conviction and sentencing. The Congress of South African Students, which is affiliated with the African National Congress, warned that the organization would not allow her to be jailed and would burn to the ground any prison that attempted to hold her.
But many South Africans say that while they are deeply saddened by Madikizela-Mandela's conviction and sentencing, no South African should be above the law. Writing in his weekly editorial Mondli Makhanya, the editor of the Mail and Guardian newspapers, described Madikizela-Mandela as a serial delinquent.
He later told VOA that it is a mistake for South Africans to suggest that Madikizela-Mandela's behavior results from her great suffering at the hands of the former government. Mr. Makhanua said many other women suffered as much and more and that they now lead exemplary lives.
"They are actually good citizens, and they are role models for a lot of South Africans and they serve as role models for a lot of black South African women who look up to them as mothers and as people they should respect," said Mr. Makhanua. "There is no excusing the suffering under apartheid for what Winnie Mandela is doing now."
In her statement Madikizela-Mandela said that she will remain a loyal member of the ANC and that her innocence will be proved in time through the self-correcting capabilities of the justice system. The African National Congress said in a statement that it respects the process of law and that it would wait until Madikizela-Mandela has exhausted all legal avenues available to her before commenting further.