I had planned to cover Winnie in an earlier episode, not long after she passed away in April 2018. As I started reading up on her, it became clear to me that she was different from the other women I’d covered. THIS was an extremely complicated human being. She was a social worker, an anti-Apartheid activist, and a survivor of horrendous abuses at the hands of the South African government. She was also a thief, an alcoholic, a prominent figure who publicly advocated for the killings of pro-Apartheid citizens, and a woman who may or may not have ordered the torture and execution of multiple South Africans, depending on who you believe.
When Melissa and I decided to dedicate an entire episode to women with a serious dark side, I knew Winnie was the perfect subject. The second wife of Nelson Mandela, Winnie became his public face in the decades following his imprisonment. She was at the forefront of the anti-Apartheid movement, for better and for worse. The public loved her, many even calling her the “Mother of the Nation.” The South African Apartheid government was not nearly so adoring. Winnie was subjected to decades of torture, terror, imprisonment, and banishment at the hands of the government. It is no wonder that she became embittered.
While her calls to violence and murder were reprehensible, who knows how long the violent, segregated system of Apartheid might have endured without her efforts? Apartheid ended in 1991, and Nelson Mandela was elected president in 1994. Winnie served in the South African government on and off in the years following Nelson’s release. She faced multiple charges of fraud, corruption, and embezzlement throughout her political career – in 2003, she was convicted of theft and fraud. She died in April 2018 at the age of 81. A savior to some, a monster to others, Winnie’s legacy is a mix of intense darkness and intense light. Learn more about her in “Episode 11 – The Villainess Episode.”
Ma Anand Sheela
Let me preface by saying, Ma Anand Sheela is a Capricorn. Capricorns will stop at nothing to reach their goals and successfully live out their aspirations. The sea goat will climb and climb and climb until they’ve conquered the status quo. They belong on top, and in order to get there, sometimes they’ve got to build an orgy loving hippie cult and poison an entire town of hillbilly Oregonians. Hey, taking over the world is not an easy job but someone’s got to do it!
Ma Anand Sheela was the secretary and spokeswoman of the religious cult known as the Rajneeshpuram movement. She purchased the 64,000-acre Big Muddy Ranch in Wasco County, Oregon, which became the site for the Rajneeshpuram commune. Although the guru Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh “Osho” was the cult leader, Ma Anand Sheela was basically pulling all the strings, concocting all the plans, manipulating all the people, and operating the cult entirely on her own. Within 3 years, Sheela developed a community of 7,000 white upper-class followers that practiced meditation, kundalini yoga, and sexual awakenings… and oh boy, those Wasco County Oregonians were NOT having it.
Ma Anand Sheela ends up going to war with the Wasco County hillbillies, local government officials, and the police force. She poisons the entire town, recruits a bunch of homeless to vote her into office, attempts to kill off a few bougie West Hollywood followers, and ultimately high-tales it to Switzerland and escapes imprisonment for attempted murder, assault, wiretapping, arson, immigration fraud and poisoning 751 people by contaminating a salad bar at a restaurant. Like I said, Ma Anand Sheela is a Capricorn, the most successful foul-mouthed PR woman in the world. #toughtitties
Tune in to “Episode 11 – The Villainess Episode” for the full INSANE story about Ma Anand Sheela and the Rajneeshpuram cult. Also, you can watch a documentary of her story on Netflix called Wild Wild Country.