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Monday, November 24, 1997 Published at 14:29 GMT



Despatches
image: [ Richard Downes reports from Johannesburg ]Richard Downes
From Johannesburg

A week of hearings by the Truth Commission into allegations of murder, kidnapping and assault by Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, the former wife of President Nelson Mandela, has opened in Johannesburg. Richard Downes reports from the hearings.

If Winnie Mandela expected a gentle start to this week of hearings, she was proved wrong almost immediately. The first witness accused her of being implicated in two murders. Soon after, a women, Maggie Dlamini, said Mrs Mandela and her bodyguards had badly beaten her when she was pregnant, causing the retardation of her young son. In both cases the witnesses said Winnie acted in a jealous rage. Both witnesses were accused of lying by Mrs Mandela's lawyers; both denied the allegation. Mrs Mandela will face around 40 such witnesses. Some of them, like Albertina Sisulu, are highly respected members of the community whose testimony it will not be easy to disregard. As the most controversial politician in South Africa, Winnie Mandela is fighting for her political life. The outcome of this week's hearings will largely determine whether she has a chance of standing for the deputy presidency of the ruling African National Congress.





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