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Winnie fraud case put back one day

Winnie Mandela
Winnie Mandela is still popular among the poor in South Africa  

PRETORIA, South Africa -- Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, the ex-wife of former South African president Nelson Mandela, went to court on Monday to face fraud and theft charges involving more than a million rand ($100,000).

Madikizela-Mandela, 65, and her co-accused, financial adviser Addy Moolman, face 60 charges of fraud and 25 of theft. She was arrested on October 18 and had been on bail.

The case at Pretoria Magistrates Court was adjourned until Tuesday to give defence lawyers more time to study the evidence.

The anti-apartheid campaigner, called the "Mother of the Nation" by her supporters, arrived in a silver-grey Mercedes-Benz flanked by four bodyguards.

"You're in my way," she told news cameramen as she entered the court, Reuters reported.

Madikizela-Mandela, a ruling party legislator who has denied any wrong-doing, was accompanied by her daughter Zindzi.

The leader of the women's wing of the ruling African National Congress and Moolman are suspects in what prosecutors say was a scheme involving the use of her signature to fraudulently obtain bank loans.

Moolman is accused of obtaining personal loans for fictitious ANC Women's League employees from a local bank using Madikizela-Mandela's name and letterheads.

Sixty people falsely claiming to be women's league employees obtained loans from the bank, authorities said. They all carried letters on women's league stationery confirming their employment, and most of those letters were signed by Madikizela-Mandela, authorities say.

Prosecutor Jan Ferreira said 550,000 rand ($55,000) was later deposited into Madikizela-Mandela's personal accounts. The accounts have since been frozen, authorities said.

The trial is the latest controversy to face Madikizela-Mandela, who remains popular among poor black South Africans who regard her as a defender of the downtrodden and are prepared to overlook her faults.

Last month, she snubbed a parliamentary committee which had summoned her to explain how she lived a lavish lifestyle on her MP's salary.

In February, she was evicted from the Soweto house she used to share with Mandela before he began serving 27 years in apartheid jails.

While Mandela was imprisoned, Madikizela-Mandela was a vociferous opponent of the white minority regime.

But she later achieved notoriety after revelations about the violent activities of her "Mandela United Football Club" group of young enforcers.

She was convicted in 1991 for the kidnapping of 14-year-old township activist Stompie Seipei, whose decomposed body was found near her home with his throat cut. But she was acquitted of murder and her six-year jail term was reduced on appeal to a fine.

Her reputation was further diminished when Mandela sacked her from his ANC dominated government in 1995 and divorced her for adultery a year later.




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