Witnesses link Mandela's ex-wife to murders
Accusers testify before South Africa's Truth Commission
November 24, 1997
Web posted at: 2:48 p.m. EST (1948 GMT)
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JOHANNESBURG, South Africa (CNN) -- Winnie Madikizela-Mandela laughed, glared and bit her lip on Monday as supporters-turned-accusers linked her to six gang-style killings and a brutal assault on a pregnant woman during a jealous rage.
The testimony came during the start of weeklong hearings on 18 killings and other crimes allegedly involving President Nelson Mandela's ex-wife and her band of youthful followers,
known as the Mandela United Football Club.
For Madikizela-Mandela, the hearing -- being held publicly at her request -- is a chance to address the accusations from former bodyguards, police and politicians. It is also an opportunity to keep her public profile high before next month's national conference of the governing African National Congress.
As president of the ANC Women's League, she is vying for the party's deputy presidency -- a post that could make her deputy president of the country after the 1999 election. Many in the ANC hierarchy oppose her bid.
None of the initial witnesses said they saw Madikizela-Mandela kill anyone, but all placed her alongside people who were severely beaten by members of the football club, including some who have died or never been seen since.
Among Monday's witnesses:
- John "Motho" Morgan, who said he was a former driver for Madikizela-Mandela, described her teen-age followers as well-armed ruffians who often molested schoolgirls and stole cars at gunpoint.
While not an eyewitness, Morgan linked the youths to the deaths of two black youngsters -- Madikizela-Mandela's former female houseworker Kuki Zwane, and 14-year-old activist Stompie Seipei.
- Maggie Phumlile Dlamini said that in 1988 Madikizela-Mandela punched and slapped her repeatedly in a jealous rage after Dlamini was impregnated by one of Madikizela-Mandela's then-lovers. Madikizela-Mandela then allegedly ordered her followers to carry on with the beating at her home.
Dlamini's son, now 9, has learning and concentration problems, which she attributed to being beaten while she was pregnant.
Dlamini further charged that Madikizela-Mandela's young followers shot dead her brother, Tholakile Dlamini, who was also a member of the football club.
- Former Madikizela-Mandela ally Thami Hlatshwayo told the hearing he believed she was responsible for the murder of Vincent Sefako, a guerrilla of the then-banned African National Congress (ANC).
- Nicodemus Sono, said he last saw his son Lolo alive in 1988 in a van with Madikizela-Mandela. Lolo had been badly beaten and Sono said he climbed into the van to ask for mercy.
But Madikizela-Mandela told Sono that his son was a spy who must be dealt with by the anti-apartheid movement, and the van drove away, Sono said. "I went to see Mrs. Mandela and she said, `We dropped (Lolo) off somewhere."'
- Nomsa Shabalala, whose son also disappeared in 1988, said the boy had been part of a group, including Lolo Sono, that ran afoul of Madikizela-Mandela's youthful followers. "I want Winnie to give my son back. I want his bones and remains," she said Monday.
Madikizela-Mandela's lawyers repeatedly characterized Monday's testimony as lies, leading Truth Commission chairman Desmond Tutu to warn them against harassing witnesses.
Madikizela-Mandela hugged friends as she entered the hearing room. About a dozen supporters stood outside, some carrying posters that said, "God bless Winnie, protect her from those that want to destroy her" and "Long live Winnie."
Her two daughters also attended the hearings.
Nelson and Winnie Mandela divorced last year. Madikizela-Mandela, the name his ex-wife now uses, is a combination of her married and maiden names. She is due to testify on Friday.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission was set up in 1995 to probe apartheid-era crimes and promote the healing of emotional wounds left by South Africa's white minority rule.
The panel can grant amnesty to people who make full confessions to politically motivated crimes.
Correspondent Catherine Bond and Reuters contributed to this report.