OTTAWA: Canada has denied a visa to South African anti-apartheid leader Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, who was to be the keynote speaker at a fund-raising gala in Toronto on Tuesday, featuring an opera about her life.
Madikizela-Mandela, the ex-wife of former South African President Nelson Mandela, had packed her bags and was about to set out for the airport when the Canadian embassy notified her that she would not be allowed to enter the country, organisers of the Toronto event said.
"No reason was given," said Carole Adrianns, event director for MusicaNoir, an organization that raises awareness about Africa through cultural projects.
"The Mandela family was very, very confident that they were getting the visa," she said.
Immigration officials in Ottawa were not immediately available to comment.
Adrianns said she was especially "blown away" by the visa denial because Madikizela-Mandela had just been to New York on May 19 to receive an award for her work on AIDS.
"It would just have been such an honor to have her there for us," she said.
The 70-year-old Madikizela-Mandela, who rose to heroine status as a fearsome opponent of South Africa's apartheid regime, became a controversial figure because of her 1991 conviction in the death of a 14-year-old activist.
She also had a public falling-out with her husband after he formed a new government in 1995. They were divorced a year later.
But she still remains a symbol for many because of her battle against apartheid while Nelson Mandela languished in jail for 27 years until his historic release in 1990.
The Toronto event Madikizela-Mandela was to attend will include excerpts from a multimedia opera called 'The Passion of Winnie,' a creation of composer Bongani Ndodana-Breen, and filmmaker Warren Wilensky.