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Thursday, December 4, 1997 Published at 14:19 GMT


Winnie says evidence against her is 'ludicrous'
image: [ Winnie Madikizela-Mandela giving evidence to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission ]
Winnie Madikizela-Mandela giving evidence to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission

Winnie Madikizela-Mandela has told the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission some of the evidence against her was "ludicrous".

The 63-year-old former wife of South Africa's President Nelson Mandela, giving evidence for the first time to the commission hearing in Johannesburg, said witness after witness had made up evidence and that the truth commission was a "mud-slinging exercise".

Mrs Mandela, who was convicted of kidnapping 14-year-old Stompie Moeketsi Seipei in 1991, said allegations that she was involved in at least 18 human rights abuses including eight murders were "ridiculous".

She said her main accuser, former comrade Katiza Cebekhulu, was a "mental patient" and his allegations against her were hallucinations.

Mrs Mandela, who was divorced by the South African president last year, is seeking election later this month as deputy president of the ruling African National Congress (ANC).

She blamed the allegations against her on a campaign to discredit her by the apartheid government's strategic management committee, known as Stratcom, and on the international media.

The woman, once known as The Mother of the Nation, said Mr Cebekhulu, who is seeking political asylum in Britain, had imagined the incidents he described in his testimony to the commission, and in interviews with author Fred Bridgland.

She said Mr Cebekhulu's testimony that he saw her stab Stompie to death with "something shiny" was ludicrous.

Mrs Mandela said: "As far as I am concerned Katiza is a mental patient and he would have hallucinated details like that."

On Wednesday, her former bodyguard Jerry Richardson, 48, said he killed Stompie "like a goat" with a pair of garden shears and said that he had acted on the orders of Mrs Mandela.

Richardson is serving life in prison for murdering Stompie and a policeman in an unconnected case.

Mrs Mandela, who was acquitted of assaulting Stompie, denied that she ordered his murder in December 1988.

"That is ludicrous and the worst lunacy," she told the commission, being chaired by Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

She also denied ordering the killing of black youths Lolo Sono, Sibusiso Shabalala and Maxwell Modondo.

Replying to the accusations, put to her by her lawyer, Ishmail Semenya, she said: "That is ridiculous."

[ image: Richardson says Winnie was behind the murders]
Richardson says Winnie was behind the murders
Richardson had claimed Sono and Shabalala were slaughtered after being falsely accused of betraying two African National Congress guerrillas to police.

Mrs Mandela also denied Mr Cebekhulu's allegations that she conspired to falsely accuse a white priest, Paul Verryn, of sodomising black youths in his care, including Stompie, in order to justify their abduction.

A number of witnesses have testified that Stompie was beaten almost to death in her home but she said it was a "ridiculous assertion".

She said she was not aware that the boys were held against their will in her home after they were taken from the priest's home and said she handed them to church officials when she heard the charge.

Mrs Mandela was accompanied to the hearing by her eldest daughter Zenani, but her youngest daughter, Zindzi, who was accused of torturing suspected police informers earlier this week, was not present.

The former wife of President Mandela, who is still revered in many black townships, had earlier criticised witnesses for "dragging" her daughter into the picture.

She said Gift Ntombeni, a former Mandela United member who testified to having seen Zindzi carve the initials ANC into a suspected informer's back and chest, had incriminated her daughter with "fabrications".

Mrs Mandela said: "Whenever it suited whatever agenda, my daughter's name is dragged in at random in the most ridiculous evidence I have ever heard."

Mrs Mandela also denied having anything to do with the murder of Soweto physician, Dr Abu Baker Asvat.

In a book published earlier this year and at the hearing last week, Mr Cebekhulu said she ordered the killing of Dr Asvat.

Mr Cebekhulu, who disappeared in 1991 on the eve of her trial on the Stompie assault case, also claimed that she arranged to get him out of the country.

She rejected all the claims on Thursday and called Dr Asvat a close friend whose death shocked and saddened her.

[ image: Hanif Vally accused Mrs Mandela of
Hanif Vally accused Mrs Mandela of "playing around"
Later, under cross-examination by Hanif Vally, lawyer for the truth commission, she said she disbanded the Mandela United Football Club after leaving prison in 1987.

She said some youths continued to wear Mandela United uniforms and were given shelter in her house but she said she could not be held responsible for their actions.

"They led their own lives in the back and I had my own problems to deal with. You are not suggesting, for God's sake, that I would be responsible for the actions of these boys when they went back to their homes," she said.

Mrs Mandela said she was an operative with the ANC's armed wing, the Umkhonto we Sizwe or Spear of the Nation (MK), and several MK cadres stayed in her house or contacted her during the apartheid era.

She said they were later discouraged from using her house because of the presence of suspected police informers.

At one point in the proceedings Mrs Mandela was loudly applauded by supporters when she reprimanded Mr Vally for accusing her of "playing around" with her answers.

Archbishop Tutu intervened and warned her supporters they would be thrown out if they interrupted the proceedings again.

[ image: Stompie Moeketsi Seipei, killed by Jerry Richardson]
Stompie Moeketsi Seipei, killed by Jerry Richardson
Later he warned two women, wearing uniform of the ANC Women's League, who allegedly harassed Stompie's mother, Joyce, during a tea break.

He said: "It's reprehensible conduct which I condemn in the strongest terms. It's disgraceful.

"But apart from being disgraceful it is a criminal offence and if I should have evidence of the people who have done that, we will lay charges against them."

Archbishop Tutu warned all present against intimidating witnesses and reminded the audience that Mrs Seipei had lost a child in a brutal fashion.

[ image: Stompie's mother, Joyce]
Stompie's mother, Joyce
Mrs Mandela, president of the ANC Women's League, interrupted and condemned what she said was a grave allegation.

"We as the Women's League regret that very much and we request to be given details of that allegation.

"We cannot believe any mother, let alone any member of the Women's League, would be involved in that kind of conduct."

On Wednesday, Richardson graphically described how he and a man known as Slash repeatedly threw Stompie in the air, dropped him and "kicked him like a ball" as Mrs Mandela looked on.

He said he and Slash, named as Skumbuzo Mtshali, later "finished off" the boy with a pair of garden shears in an open field near the sprawling Soweto township.

He has also admitted killing three other suspected "impimpis" (police informers) on Winnie's orders.

Richardson said: "I killed Stompie on Mummy's [Mrs Mandela's] instructions. She used us."

Winnie Madikizela-Mandela denying accusations under questioning by her lawyer Ishmail Semenya (Dur:3.00)

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