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Monday, 8 July, 2002, 04:40 GMT 05:40 UK
Winnie Mandela faces fraud trial
Winnie Madikizela-Mandela
Madikizela-Mandela is still a heroine for many
Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, the former wife of Nelson Mandela, goes on trial in South Africa on Monday on 85 charges of fraud and theft.

Presidential inauguration, 1994
Winnie and Nelson divorced in 1996
The charges involve more than R1m ($100,000) allegedly obtained by fraud through her work for the ruling African National Congress (ANC).

She and a colleague are accused of obtaining bank loans for fictitious members of the ANC's Women's League, which she heads.

It is the latest in a long line of personal scandals to hit Ms Madikizela-Mandela, who insists she is innocent and continues to enjoy widespread support in the country.

Prosecutors suspect the 65-year-old and broker Addy Moolman of a scam involving the use of Ms Madikizela-Mandela's signature to obtain the bank loans fraudulently.

Both defendants are expected to appear in the court in Pretoria.

Ms Madikizela-Mandela, who separated from the former South African president in 1992, says she is being persecuted.

'Mother' to 'mugger'

The BBC's Alistair Leithead says she is still one of the most famous women in South Africa, widely regarded as a champion of the poor.

But the reputation of the sitting MP has been damaged by a succession of episodes, which led to the "Mother of the Nation" being nicknamed "Mugger of the Nation".

The most dramatic event involved the murder of a young boy:

  • In 1991 she was convicted of kidnapping 14-year-old township activist Stompie Seipei in Soweto after his body was found with his throat cut near her home - her six-year prison sentence was reduced to a fine on appeal.
  • In 1996 Nelson Mandela finally divorced her for adultery.
  • In February of this year, she was evicted from the Soweto house she used to share with Mr Mandela before he went to prison under the apartheid regime. The house is due to become a museum.
  • This June she snubbed a parliamentary committee which had summoned her to explain how she lived a lavish lifestyle on her MP's salary.
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 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Alistair Leithead in Johannesburg
"Winnie Madikizela-Mandela insists she's innocent"

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See also:

30 Oct 98 | Truth and Reconciliation
27 May 99 | South Africa elections
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