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Wednesday, December 3, 1997 Published at 10:49 GMT

image: [ BBC Correspondent: Richard Downes ]Richard Downes

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa has begun hearing evidence from Jerry Richardson, a former close associate of Winnie Madikizela Mandela. Mr Richardson is currently serving a life sentence for the murder of the 14 year old activist, Stompie Muketsi Sepei, in the late 1980s. The Truth Commission is currently investigating the role of Mrs Mandela in past crimes, and she's expected to testify later today. From Johannesburg, here's Peter Biles:

Jerry Richardson was the one-time coach of the former Mandela United football club, Mrs Mandela's personal vigilante gang. The football team is said to have conducted a reign of terror in Soweto in the latter stages of the apartheid era.

Mr Richardson said that if anyone in the township was labelled a sellout, there was nothing he could do, that person would have to be killed. Mr Richardson said that Mrs Mandela was the decision-maker and gave all the orders.

He described one killing, in which he said he slit a young woman's throat and dumped the body. Again, this was said to have been on the orders of Mrs Mandela.

Mr Richardson was then asked about the abduction of five boys, including 14 year old Stompie Muketsi Sepei. Mr Richardson was given a life sentence in 1991 for murdering Stompie, while Mrs Mandela was convicted of kidnapping the teenager.

Today, in an emotionally charged atmosphere, Mr Richardson said he threw Stompie in the air several times and let him fall to the ground, while Mrs Mandela watched. He said Stompie was also kicked like a ball.

He was certain the boy would die as a result. The next morning, said Mr Richardson, it was his view that Stompie should be finished off.

He said he had killed Stompie on Mrs Mandela's instructions. Winnie Madikizela Mandela listened to Mr Richardson's evidence in silence.

She's expected to give her account of what happened either later today or on Thursday.

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