Winnie Mandela held 3 hours by South African police

September 20, 1990|By Jerelyn Eddings | Jerelyn Eddings,Johannesburg Bureau of The Sun

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa -- Police detained Winnie Mandela for nearly three hours yesterday in the black township of Thokoza, where she had gone to visit victims of recent violence.

Mrs. Mandela accused the police of harassment and said that such treatment was not new to the Mandela family. "It's part of a continued pattern of harassment. The whole idea really is to undermine the African National Congress," she told reporters after she was released.

Police said Mrs. Mandela, wife of ANC leader Nelson Mandela, was held for questioning in connection with spent bullet cartridges found in her possession when she was among those stopped at a roadblock. Mrs. Mandela said the bullets were given to her by Thokoza residents who believed they had been shot at by police and who wanted the ANC to have evidence of the shootings.

The incident occurred one day after a Johannesburg prosecutor said he would charge Mrs. Mandela with kidnapping and assault in connection with the 1988 abduction of four young men from a Methodist church.

Mrs. Mandela's former bodyguard, Jerry Richardson, has been convicted and sentenced to death for the murder of a 14-year-old activist in the affair.

She said she welcomed the decision to prosecute her. "At least I will be able to have a proper trial to clear my name properly," she said. "Up to now, I have been tried and found guilty by the media in South Africa."

Meanwhile, President F. W. de Klerk, who is to spend next week in Washington meeting with President Bush and other U.S. officials, criticized Nelson Mandela for his comments about the police role in the recent spate of violence in South Africa.

"Inasmuch as Mr. Mandela has made contradictory statements in a short period of time, he has opened himself up to criticism," Mr. de Klerk said at a news conference in Pretoria.

Mr. Mandela has called on South African authorities to take action to stop the violence in black townships, saying the government has the power to bring the fighting under control. At the same time, he has been highly critical of measures taken by police in response to the violence, such as the 4-day-old "Iron Fist" policy of curfews, roadblocks and the use of machine guns mounted on police vehicles in strife-torn areas.

"We will not be patrolling the townships with machine guns and shooting at innocent people," Mr. de Klerk said in response to the ANC leader's attack on Operation Iron Fist. He said the

policy, aimed at protecting police officers against assailants using AK-47 assault rifles, had been deliberately misinterpreted.

Mr. de Klerk also announced additional measures aimed at quelling the township violence, which began in mid-August and has claimed the lives of almost 800 people.

The measures include the appointment of special investigative units to look into incidents such as the recent train massacre in which 26 people were killed; a special amnesty for people who surrender illegal weapons to the authorities by Oct. 1; and the possible appointment of an "independent, highly respected person" to follow up charges of misuse of power by government agencies.

"I want to emphasize that the government has committed itself to the process of negotiation, not only to seek peaceful constitutional solutions but also to deal with the causes of the problems," Mr. de Klerk told reporters.

But he added that the negotiations process "can be damaged by violence and widespread unrest," and for that reason the government had "no alternative but to address the instability."

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