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Monday, November 24, 1997 Published at 12:03 GMT



Despatches
image: [ BBC Correspondent: Richard Downes ]Richard Downes
From After months of allegations in the media, Winnie Mandela is finally being confronted by her accusers.

Official hearings have begun in Johannesburg into allegations against the divorced wife of President Mandela, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which is investigating crimes committed during the apartheid years, is looking into Mrs Mandela's alleged role in about twenty cases of murder, torture and kidnapping. From Johannesburg, BBC correspondent Richard Downes reports:

After months of allegations in the media, Winnie Mandela is finally being confronted by her accusers. They include Nicodemus Sono. The last time Mr Sono saw his son Lolo was in 1988, he was being held by Mrs Mandela and was badly bruised and beaten. He never saw his son again and wants the commission to force Winnie Mandela to tell him what happened to his son.

But at the opening of the hearings, Commission Chairman Archbishop Desmond Tutu said the body was not a court of law - this week's hearings were not a trial. Archbishop Tutu said the purpose of the investigations was to find the truth about past crimes.

Mrs Mandela arrived at the venue for the hearings but made no comment. The early testimony concentrated on one allegation - that Mrs Mandela was implicated in the murder of a woman, Susan Maripa, killed in 1987.

Mrs Mandela refuted the allegation and is expected to robustly defend herself against further allegations. She'll produce witnesses to show that her accusers are part of a conspiracy devised by the former government to discredit her.





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