JOHANNESBURG November 24 1997 - SAPA


Winnie Madikizela-Mandela sat impassively, showing little sign of emotion at her Truth Commission hearing on Monday, while her accusers portrayed her as a vengeful, violent woman, prone to jealous rages and deeply involved in the assault and murder of several young activists during the 1980s.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearing at the JISS Centre in Mayfair, Johannesburg, heard allegations of atrocities committed by the "Mandela United Football Club", an anarchical band of Soweto youths who acted as her bodyguard.

Madikizela-Mandela and her bodyguard have been linked to some 20 human rights abuses, including eight murders, assault and kidnapping. She has not applied for amnesty for any of the alleged atrocities.

Witnesses on Monday alleged she was behind the execution by AK47 rifle of a woman who "knew too much", that she personally assaulted a pregnant woman because she had slept with her lover, and that she took part in the assault of teenage anti-apartheid activist Stompie Seipie, administering the first blow to his face.

Her main accuser in the Seipei incident, Katiza Cebekhulu, who testifies on Tuesday, arrived at the hearing in the company of his British ward, Dame Emma Nicholson, while former Mandela United Football Club "coach" Jerry Richardson, who was convicted in 1991 for Seipei's murder, was brought to the hearing in leg-irons under heavy police guard.

Madikizela-Mandela was found guilty of kidnapping Seipei and sentenced to six years in jail, which was later commuted to a R15000 fine.

First witness on Monday, former Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK) soldier Thami Hlatswayo, told the hearing that a Soweto woman was shot 14 times with an AK47 rifle after Madikizela-Mandela decided that she "knew too much".

He said he was brought before Madikizela-Mandela after an MK mission to attack a police station was derailed when Mk cadre Vincent Sefako was knocked down by a car in sinister circumstances. Two women, Susan Maripa and Catherine Mathibe, tried to help Sefako on the scene and called for an ambulance, but the MK man's body disappeared before help arrived.

Hlatswayo told the commission that when he told Madikizela-Mandela of Maripa's intervention, she said she wanted to see Maripa because she "knew too much".

He said he was ordered by Peter Dlamini, an associate of Madikizela-Mandela's, to accompany him to Maripa's house on October 29, 1987. There, he said, Dlamini opened fire on her with an AK47, hitting Maripa in the chest at close range.

In written testimony, Mathibe, Maripa's neighbour, who also witnessed the Sefako incident, said Madikizela-Mandela visited her the day before Maripa's death. Madikizela-Mandela acted "unhappily and suspiciously".

According to Mathibe's evidence, Hlatswayo contacted her and told her that she was going to be killed like Maripa had been and that she should flee the country. Mathibe went into exile in Zambia while Hlatswayo fled to Botswana.

aggie Phumile Dlamini testified that Madikizela-Mandela assaulted her while she was three-months pregnant, then a week later ordered her bodyguards to assault her again. The second beating lasted for five hours and was only stopped by the intervention of Madikizela-Mandela's daughter Zinzi.

Dlamini said she was assaulted because Madikizela-Mandela was jealous of her relationship with her boyfriend, Johannes "Shakes" Tau, who was Madikizela-Mandela's driver and a football club member.

The first beating occurred early in 1988 when Madikizela-Mandela learnt of the relationship with Tau, and the second after Tau "ran away".

"Not long after we fell in love, Shakes told me that Winnie had come to him in the middle of the night and got under the blankets with him."

Dlamini said she was confronted by an angry Madikizela-Mandela. "She beat me. She slapped me in the face and hit me with her fists all over my body and stomach."

Dlamini said she believed these assaults affected her unborn son, Tsepo, later causing him learning and concentration problems.

She further testified that her brother, Tholi, was killed by football club member Sizwe Sithole on October 16, 1988, because he wanted to report the incidents to the police.

When Madikizela-Mandela's legal representative Ishmail Semenya suggested she was fabricating the story, she said: "This is not a figment of my imagination. She knows deep down inside of her I am not telling lies, because she was there."

Dlamini said Sowetans loved and trusted Madikizela-Mandela, who was regarded as the mother of their community. "It was my view as well but after I was assaulted and after my brother's death I changed my view completely. I did not want to hear that she was referred to as the `Mother of the Nation'".

Nicodemus Sono told the hearing he last saw his son Lolo in the back of a minibus, in which Madikizela-Mandela was sitting in the passenger seat, outside his Soweto home in November 1988.

He said his son was among many young activists involved with Madikizela-Mandela in the 1980s. He was accused of being a police spy after two ANC cadres were killed.

Sono said his son was lying in the back of the minibus severely beaten, while Madikzela-Mandela derided the injured youth as a "dog and a spy".

Sono said he pleaded for his son, to no avail. The vehicle was driven off and he never saw his son again. He asked the commission to help him establish what happened to his son.

Nomsa Shabalala, mother of another former football club member, Siboniso, who was a friend of Lolo Sono's, said Madikizela-Mandela abducted her son and killed him.

"Yes she did kill them, just like Stompie," she said, referring to the deaths of her son, Sono and Seipei.

The last time she heard from Siboniso was the day before he disappeared on November 14, 1988, when he telephoned her and said he was with Lolo Sono.

"There was absolutely no reason for him to leave home for nine years. Something must have happened to him. I want Winnie to give my son back. I want his bones and remains. Deep inside she knows. I want to find out where my son has been buried."

John Morgan, who said he was employed as Madikizela-Mandela's driver, testified that she was present when her bodyguards assaulted Seipei and three other youths at her home on December 29, 1988.

He said she was the first to slap Seipei. He said the young activist's face was swollen like a pumpkin after the assault. "His hands were so swollen he could not lift a cup of coffee."

Morgan said Madikizela-Mandela asked Dr Abu-Baker Asvat to treat Seipei, but the doctor refused. Asvat said the boy should be taken to hospital. Morgan said he was told: "Go and take that dog and dump it somewhere."

"I refused completely to do as I was instructed," Morgan said.

Madikizela-Mandela has also been implicated in Asvat's subsequent murder.

During questioning, Richardson's lawyer, Tony Richard, read a statement by his client describing how Seipei was killed. Richardson said he walked with Seipei to a railway line near Noordgesig, where "Slash", another football club member, held him down.

Richardson said he took one half of a garden shears and "I slit his throat as if I was slaughtering a sheep".

At the close of a damning day, Madikizela-Mandela left the hearing venue in a luxury German car and with her legal team drove to Johannesburg Central police station.

There she laid a charge of crimen injuria against Cebukhulu, whose allegations against her gained wide publicity when published in a book by British journalist Fred Bridgland.

Reporters who followed her were ushered out of the charge office by police after a complaint from her legal tem.

Leaving the station, Madikezela-Mandela pointedly ignored questions, remaining completely silent despite pleas for comment.

South African Press Association, 1997
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