JOHANNESBURG, Dec 1 - SAPA

WINNIE HANDED OVER GUN TO MURDER ASVAT, SAYS KILLER

The convicted killer of Soweto doctor Abu-Baker Asvat on Monday repeated under oath that Winnie Madikizela-Mandela had provided the gun for the 1989 slaying of her personal physician.

Cyril Mbatha described to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission - hearing evidence into allegations of serious crimes against the ANC Women's League president - that on the day of the murder he and fellow co-accused, Thulani Dlamini, had visited Madikizela-Mandela at her Soweto home.

"She greeted us warmly. She said 'good day boys' and we said we were fine," Mbatha told the hearing.

Madikizela-Mandela had commented on their youth and asked whether they understood what they had been asked to do, Mbatha said.

"She said she had a problem with a certain man who was disturbing her in her political work. She wanted people to remove this person," Mbatha testified.

According to Mbatha, Madikizela-Mandela asked if they were prepared to carry out the murder. The pair said they would.

Mbatha said Dlamini had explained that the gun in his possession was "not good enough".

"She didn't answer but she disappeared into the house and came back with a parcel with a cloth over it."

Madikizela-Mandela handed over the parcel to Dlamimi who was "satisfied". Madikizela-Mandela also instructed a "young boy" to accompany Dlamini and Mbatha to Dr Asvat's surgery.

In a written statement, Mbatha refers to the young boy as Katiza Cebekhulu.

Later in his testimony, Mbatha said they had not discussed the question of money with Madikizela-Mandela as they were "prepared to carry out their task".

Mbatha said the police were not interested in hearing about Madikizela-Mandela's involvement.

"I wanted to give them a statement but they did not want to take it," he said.

Asked by Soller if he would prefer to remain in jail or take advantage of the "law's facilities for release", Mbatha replied: "I am prepared to be in jail for all the time can be, for I believe I am serving time for the crime I committed."

He then broke down and sobbed.

Soller said his client wanted to address the Asvat family adding this was was the last time he would have the opportunity to do so.

Finally Mbatha said: "In all that I have done, I did (this) because I was tempted by a very clever person who was older than me. She tried by all means to show me and convince me I should do that.

"She had her helpers, my accomplices, who ferried me to and from the scene of the murder. They came up with all the information for the commission of the crime.

"All the time the Asvat family has been puzzled by the circumstances surrounding their relative's death, not getting any truth from anyone. I wanted to come to this commission and speak the truth. I want the Asvat family to forgive me.

"This is from the depths of my heart. I feel free because I told them I was the killer.

"You have seen me. I am the first and the last."

Mbatha said his parents cried when he was given the death sentence for Asvat's murder - later commuted to life.

"God has kept me alive to give me the opportunity to come clean," he concluded.

Asvat's brother Ibrahim, who gave evidence earlier, was in tears throughtout Mbatha's final speech.

Chairman Tutu ordered a five-minute recess as Asvat was comforted by supporters.

Seemingly untouched by the moving scene, Mdikizela-Mandela shook hands and greeted members of the gallery during the recess.


South African Press Association, 1997
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