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Wednesday, December 3, 1997 Published at 15:58 GMT

image: [ BBC Correspondent: Richard Downes ]Richard Downes
South Africa

The Truth Commission probe into the activities of Winnie Madikizela Mandela in Johannesburg has heard chilling testimony from one of her former close aides. Jerry Richardson, the former head of the group of vigilantes called the Mandela United football club, told the commission that he killed the young township activist, Stompie Sepei Muketsi, by stabbing him with a garden shears. RICHARD DOWNES reports from the hearings in Mayfair in Johannesburg:

Jerry Richardson claimed that he killed on the orders of Winnie Mandela. He said he murdered the young Stompie Muketsi by stabbing him like a goat.

He described how he and an accomplice picked up the youth and dropped him on the ground, kicked him as if he was a football and then used a garden shears to stab him. Mr Richardson said he'd killed three other young people, all regarded as spies for the apartheid police.

But it was Mr Richardson himself who was the spy: he informed on the activities of the group of young men surrounding Mrs Mandela, and on Mrs Mandela herself. He also claimed that she had a close relationship with secret service agents who frequently conducted cordial conversations with her at her house.

His clear inference was that the then wife of Nelson Mandela was collaborating with the apartheid government. Mr Richardson confirmed the evidence of a number of others who've appeared before the commission, but contradicted the testimony given by one of the hearing's most important witnesses, Katiza Cebekhulu.

At times, Mr Richardson appeared to be confused and at others, he was deliberately obstructive. He left the hearings as he arrived, in chains, carrying a miniature red football and wearing a badge, apparently of a white female idol.

Mrs Mandela will have a full day to respond to the allegations made against her on Thursday.

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