JOHANNESBURG December 1 1997 - SAPA


A woman believed by a TRC official to be Winnie Madikizela-Mandela allegedly interfered with a potential Truth and Reconciliation Commission witness by contacting him over the weekend, it was claimed on Monday.

TRC consultant Piers Pigou spoke of a sudden reluctance by the witness to testify during the second week of TRC hearings in Johannesburg into atrocities allegedly committed during the late 1980s by Madikizela-Mandela and her bodyguards, the Mandela United Football Club.

Madikizela-Mandela's lawyer, Ishmail Semenya, objected to Pigou's testimony, prompting commission chairman Archbishop Desmond Tutu to say the TRC was not trying to place his client under a cloud. Tutu accepted Semenya's assurance that his client was not intimidating witnesses.

Supporting Pigou's testimony was Kurt Shillinger, an American freelance journalist working for the Boston Globe. Shillinger was formerly editor of the Christian Science Monitor.

Pigou said he went with Shillinger on Saturday morning to meet Michael Seakamela after the reporter located the potential witness in Soweto. Pigou said Seakamelo told them he was a driver for Madikizela-Mandela.

Pigou said Seakamela corroborated essential points in last week's testimony by Nicodemus Sono, father of missing activist Lolo Sono, whose disappearance in November 14, 1988 has been linked to Madikizela-Mandela.

Nicodemus Sono said Madikizela-Mandela brought his son, who had been assaulted, to his house in a kombi. He was held at the back of the vehicle by football club members. She accused his son of being a police spy and refused to release him. She drove off and he never saw his son again.

Pigou said Seakamela confirmed that he drove the kombi. He also said he became involved with Madikizela-Mandela because his brother, Johannes Oupa, had been involved with the Mandela household since 1976. Oupa was the father of the first child of Madikizela-Mandela's daughter Zinzi, Pigou said.

During the meeting, Seakamala received a phone call from his brother and became reluctant to speak to Pigou and Shillinger, Pigou said. Seakamela said his brother told him not to make a written statement.

Shillinger said Seakamela's demeanour changed markedly during the meeting. He told Pigou and Shillinger to contact him later.

Pigou said when he phoned Seakamela on Sunday, he asked Seakemela if he was all right. Seakamaela said he was not. "He said Oupa and Mami had contacted him," Pigou said. He believed "Mami" referred to Madikizela-Mandela.

Pigou said he contacted truth commissioner Dumisa Ntsebeza to seek witness protection for Seakamela. When Pigou phoned Seakamela back, the driver became flustered and confused and put down the telephone. Seakamela had been unavailable since this phone conversation, Pigou said.

Semenya objected to his testimony.

Tutu said: "After an alleged intervention, a witness showed considerable reluctance to testify.

"It is clear there is a miasma covering some of the people who come before (the commission) or may come before. I don't want (Madikizela-Mandela) placed under a cloud. We are looking for the truth, that's why we're here."

Semenya said his client would not try to contact any potential witnesses. This was accepted by the TRC.

Soweto policeman Senior Superintendent Fred Dempsey said Seakamela refused to make any statements when Dempsey investigated the deaths of teenage activist Stompie Seipei, Soweto doctor Abu-Baker Asvat and Sono's disappearance.

South African Press Association, 1997
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