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Wednesday, November 26, 1997 Published at 18:40 GMT


Soweto priest asks Winnie for reconciliation
image: [
"I did not abuse boys in my care"

The white Methodist minister central to allegations against Winnie Madikizela-Mandela has asked the former wife of the South African president to withdraw claims that he abused teenagers in his care.

Paul Verryn broke down as he told the Truth and Reconciliation Commission he could have saved the life of a boy Mrs Madikizela-Mandela has been accused of murdering.

Mr Verryn said he never molested any children in his Soweto safe house and pointed out that everyone other than Mrs Madikizela-Mandela had withdrawn earlier statements saying he had.

[ image: Facing 18 charges]
Facing 18 charges
But the woman previously heralded as the "Mother of the Nation" rejected the chance to make amends publicly.

Her lawyer, Ishmail Semenya, said his client sought a solution with Mr Verryn in private, away from the commission "carnival."

"My instructions are, yes, Mrs Mandela would want to communicate with the bishop but holds the view that if the bishop had meant to communicate what he communicated today, previously, he could very well have," Mr Semenya said.

The commission's chairman, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, said he was sorry she would not join in the reconciliation process. He said he understood Mr Verryn's agony following the accusations.

Madikizela-Mandela facing 18 charges

Mrs Madikizela-Mandela is sitting before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission charged with involvement in 18 counts of murder, assault and kidnapping carried out by her notorious bodyguards, the self-styled Mandela United Football Club.

[ image: Stompie - the victim]
Stompie - the victim
Attention is again centring on the murder of Stompie Seipei, whom Mrs Madikizela-Mandela was found guilty of kidnapping in 1991.

Mr Verryn told the commission he regretted not doing more to save the 14-year-old activist.

He said he saw members of Mandela United aggressively question the teenager at his mission in 1988 several days before Stompei died.

"I did not remove him from the mission house and get him to a place that is safe," Mr Verryn said.

"If I had acted in another way, he might still be alive today."

Crying, he made a public apology to Stompei's mother, who attended the hearing.

Another witness, Katiza Cebekhulu, who had fled South Africa claiming he was scared for his life, said on Tuesday that he saw Mrs Madikizela-Mandela stab Stompei.

Other witnesses contradicted the claim or said Mrs Madikizela-Mandela only hit Stompei.

Mrs Madikizela-Mandela has attended the hearing since it began its week-long consideration of the evidence against her on Monday. She is expected to take the stand at the end of the week.

BBC South Africa Correspondent Richard Downes explains that the options open to the Truth Commission
Roundup of today's events from BBC's PM programme

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