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Monday, December 1, 1997 Published at 13:11 GMT



Despatches
image: [ BBC Correspondent: Richard Downes ]Richard Downes

The Truth Commission hearings in Johannesburg have been adjourned after allegations of intimidation of witnesses and a death threat against a lawyer representing one of the men who has made accusations of murder against Winnie Mandela. Richard Downes reports from Johannesburg:

The lawyer representing Winnie Mandela refused to give the hearing a categorical assurance that his client had not and would not interfere with people giving evidence to the commission.

His comments followed evidence by Hanif Vally, a lawyer representing the truth body, that at least three witnesses had been interfered with by Mrs Mandela.

Earlier, more than eight men dressed in combat fatigues entered the hall where the hearings are taking place.

They occupied a prominent position and the lawyer acting for Mr Mbatha asked Archbishop Tutu for special protection for Mr Mbatha's family because they felt intimidated by the men they believed to be members of Mrs Mandela's United Football Club.

The club is Mrs Mandela's private bodyguard. Archbishop Tutu said that he would not tolerate any intimidation of witnesses or their families and adjourned the hearing for consultations.

Mr Mbatha has dramatically changed his evidence before the commission.

While before he claimed to be a passive member of a team which killed a prominent Soweto doctor, last week in an interview with the BBC he directly implicated Winnie Mandela in the murder.

The evidence of intimidation and the death threat against Mr Mbatha's lawyer have raised the temperature at the commission which is expected to call Mrs Mandela as a witness in the next two days.





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