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Last Updated: Friday, 25 April, 2003, 11:05 GMT 12:05 UK
Winnie given jail term
Winnie Madikizela-Mandela
Madikizela-Mandela said she knew nothing about the fraud
Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, former wife of Nelson Mandela, has been sentenced to five years in prison by a South African court for fraud and theft.

One year of her sentence is suspended, and under the terms of the judgement she will serve a minimum of eight months in jail, with the rest taking the form of community service.

The former anti-apartheid campaigner was found guilty of 43 charges of fraud and 25 of theft in connection with a bank loan scandal.

The sentencing magistrate compared her to a modern day Robin Hood fraudulently acquiring loans for people who were desperately short of money, but he said that as a prominent public figure she should have known better.

Madikizela-Mandela, 66, immediately appealed and was released on bail.

Several streets around the court in the capital, Pretoria, were cordoned off by police after threats by a student group to do "anything" in its power to keep Madikizela-Mandela out of jail.

Madikizela-Mandela and her financial adviser, Addy Moolman, denied fraudulently obtaining 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.

In a statement released through her lawyer, Madikizela-Mandela announced she had resigned her positions as an MP and her influential posts on the ANC national executive and as head of the ANC Women's League.

Moolman was sentenced to a seven year jail term, two of which were suspended.


Friend and former opposition MP Helen Suzman told the BBC that she felt the judgement was harsh, considering the terrible time Madikizela-Mandela endured during the apartheid era.

Winnie Madikizela-Mandela leaves court in Pretoria
Many South Africans remain loyal to Winnie
But she said Winnie was a brave and generous woman and would continue to remain popular in the townships.

But she also said there would be many in South Africa who would welcome the sentence.

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.

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

But magistrate Peet Johnson said this was "completely improbable".

"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.

Divisive figure

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

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

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.

The BBC's Alastair Leithead
"Hundreds gathered in Pretoria to protest against her conviction"

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