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Tuesday, November 25, 1997 Published at 11:58 GMT


Winnie faces further truth probe charges

The former wife of President Nelson Mandela, under examination by South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission, faces at least three more days of damaging testimony before she takes the stand.

On Monday, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela sat through eight hours of testimony by five witnesses who accused her of assault, murder and responsibility for the disappearance of two township activists in the 1980s.

Officials said she was unlikely to testify before Thursday or Friday in the special hearing convened to probe the activities of her Mandela United Football Club during the final decade of apartheid.

Winnie Madikizela-Mandela laughed and glared as five supporters-turned-accusers linked her to six gang-style killings and a brutal assault on a pregnant woman during a jealous rage.

Two of the alleged victims broke down in tears during the testimony, which unearthed stories of rape, murder and torture.

[ image: The public hearing will investigate allegations of at least 18 human rights abuses]
The public hearing will investigate allegations of at least 18 human rights abuses
She will face dozens of witnesses - including bodyguards, police and former political allies - in the public hearing that she requested to clear her name of up to 18 killings.

Mrs Madikizela-Mandela hugged friends as she made her way into the hearing on Monday morning. Her two daughters with Mr Mandela - Zindzi and Zenadi - attended the session.

John "Motho" Morgan, who said he was a former driver for Mrs Madikizela-Mandela, accused her of cruelly meting out torture, including burnings, against anyone who invoked her anger.

He described Winnie's teenaged followers in the so-called Mandela United Football Club as well-armed ruffians who often molested schoolgirls and stole cars at gunpoint.

[ image: Winnie Madikizela-Mandela is loved and hated in equal measure]
Winnie Madikizela-Mandela is loved and hated in equal measure
He said Winnie and the football club killed two black youngsters in Soweto - her former female houseworker, Kuki Zwane, and 14-year-old activist Stompie Seipei. But he admitted he had not witnessed any of the murders.

Mrs Madikizela-Mandela, who changed her name following her divorce from the President in 1996, was a vocal, widely revered leader of the struggle against white-minority rule.

More recently she has attracted controversy, culminating in a 1991 murder trial of Seipei in which she was convicted of kidnapping but not murder, and a 1995 decision by President Mandela to fire her from the South Africa's new cabinet.

Several former admirers testified they now feared and despised Mr Mandela's ex-wife.

Maggie Phumlile Dlamini said Mrs Madikizela-Mandela punched and slapped her "all over the head and body" in 1988 after she became pregnant by one of Winnie's lovers.

[ image: A witness testifies at the hearing]
A witness testifies at the hearing
She then ordered her followers to carry on with the beating at her home. They did so for about "five hours", Ms Dlamini testified.

The alleged attack happened after Madikizela-Mandela discovered Dlamini was having a romantic affair with a young activist, "Shakes" Johannes Tau, whom Winnie also occasionally slept with.

Ms Dlamini further charged that Winnie's young followers shot dead her brother, Tholakile Dlamini, who was also a member of the football club.

Another of Winnie's former comrades, Thami Hlatshwayo, told the hearing he believed Mrs Madikizela-Mandela was responsible for the murder of Vincent Sefako, a guerilla of the then-banned African National Congress (ANC).

"I think it was a cover-up," Mr Hlatshwayo said. "There was a feud between (Sefako) and Mrs Mandela."

[ image: Mrs Madikizela-Mandela  was fined $3,200 in 1991 for kidnapping Stompie Seipei - killed by her bodyguard]
Mrs Madikizela-Mandela was fined $3,200 in 1991 for kidnapping Stompie Seipei - killed by her bodyguard
Mr Sefako, boyfriend of Winnie's daughter Zinzi, was hit by a car and shot dead while he and Mr Hlatshwayo were planning a guerilla attack on a police station in South Africa's then-tribal homeland of Bophuthatswana.

Two senior citizens, Nicodemus Sono and Nomsa Shabalala, told how they believed Winnie was behind the disappearance of their sons, Lolo Sono and Sibonisa Shabalala, in 1988.

Mr Sono said he last saw Lolo and Sibonisa on November 13, 1988 in Soweto with Mrs Madikizela-Mandela and several followers in a blue mini-van.

[ image: The Mandela United Football Club was an unruly mob that acted as Winnie's personal vigilante group]
The Mandela United Football Club was an unruly mob that acted as Winnie's personal vigilante group
"He (Lolo) appeared badly beaten, his face was bruised ... Mrs Mandela told me she was taking Lolo away because they labelled him a spy," Mr Sono said.

Subsequent attempts to find out where his son was taken were rebuffed by Winnie, who said only they had "dropped him off somewhere", he added.

Nomsa Shabalala claimed she was too afraid of Winnie to discuss her sons' mysterious disappearance.

"Even now it is the first time I have seen Winnie and I am afraid. Winnie has bodyguards. I do not have bodyguards," Shabalala said. "I want Winnie to give Sibonisa back to me. I want his bones and remains."

The week-long hearing could determine Mrs Madikizela-Mandela's political future. She stands for election to the post of deputy president of the African National Congress (ANC) in three weeks.

Her lawyers repeatedly dismissed the testimony as lies, drawing admonishments from the Commission Chairman, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, to limit their remarks to questions of fact.

The former Anglican Archbishop said this was not a trial but an exploration, the eventual aim of which is to arrive at the truth.

But it is still open to the Attorney General of the region to bring forward a criminal prosecution against Mrs Madikizela-Mandela if he feels the evidence presented is strong enough.

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