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Last Updated: Thursday, 24 April, 2003, 14:45 GMT 15:45 UK
Winnie guilty of fraud
Winnie Madikizela-Mandela leaves court in Pretoria
Supporters chanted "Winnie Winnie" and sang apartheid-era songs
A South African court has convicted Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, former wife of Nelson Mandela, of fraud and theft in connection with a bank loan scandal.

Madikizela-Mandela was found guilty of 43 charges of fraud and 25 of theft.

"The state's evidence is overwhelming," said magistrate Peet Johnson at a Pretoria court.

Madikizela-Mandela and her financial adviser, Addy Moolman, had denied fraudulently obtaining bank loans worth more than $120,000 in the name of bogus employees of the African National Congress (ANC) Women's League, of which Madikizela-Mandela is president.

Moolman was found guilty of 58 counts of fraud and 25 of theft.

Arguments about sentencing will resume on Friday.

The offences carry a maximum term of 15 years in prison.

WINNIE MADIKIZELA-MANDELA
1976: Banished to rural area by apartheid authorities
1991: Convicted of kidnapping
1996: Divorced from Nelson Mandela
2003: Convicted of fraud

Madikizela-Mandela, 66, showed no reaction when the verdicts were announced.

As she was escorted from the court, dozens of people who had gathered to support her chanted "amandla ngawethu" (power to the people) and "Winnie, Winnie" and sang apartheid liberation songs.

One supporter, Jefferson Makope, expressed sadness at the verdict.

"Winnie is a hero for many of South Africa's people. She has often been there for the poor and those who experienced tragedies," he said.

'Unreliable'

Giving evidence last month, Madikizela-Mandela said she had signed documents without checking them and was duped into taking part in fraud.

Winnie Madikizela-Mandela
Madikizela-Mandela said she knew nothing about the fraud

But the magistrate said this was "completely improbable".

Mr Johnson said: "She knew that she signed letters that would enable people to get loans to which they were not entitled."

He said Madikizela-Mandela's evidence was often unreliable and that she had contradicted herself.

The ANC said it "respected and accepted" the verdict, but would reserve further comment until the case was concluded.

But the conviction prompted renewed opposition calls for Madikizela-Mandela to resign her parliamentary seat.

"A member of parliament convicted on 43 charges of fraud should not stay on in parliament," said Douglas Gibson, opposition Democratic Alliance chief whip.

Divisive figure

It is not the first time that Madikizela-Mandela has been in trouble with authorities.

Known as "the mother of the nation" by her many supporters, but disparaged as "the mugger of the nation" by her detractors, Madikizela-Mandela was a potent symbol of resistance during the country's apartheid system.

However in 1991, following her former husband's release from prison, she was found guilty of kidnapping charges relating to the murder of a 14-year-old boy.

She was sentenced to six years in jail but this was reduced to a fine by an appeal court.

Recently she refused to pay a fine levied by parliament for financial irregularities and has only just settled a legal battle with a bank over money owed on a loan for her luxury home in Soweto.




WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Fiona Werge
"Another mark on an increasingly stained reputation"


BBC's Farouk Chothia with Smuts Ngon Yama
"She did not take the money for herself but out of desperation for the masses of our country"



SEE ALSO:
Winnie: 'Africa's Evita'
08 Jul 02  |  Africa
Winnie Mandela saves the day
06 Feb 03  |  Africa
Eyewitness: Winnie in the dock
09 Jul 02  |  Africa
No peace for workaholic Mandela
02 Mar 03  |  Africa


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