SOWETO, South Africa -- A somber Winnie Mandela was arraigned on charges of kidnapping and assault yesterday as Nelson Mandela sat in the front row of a small Soweto courtroom and dozens of supporters gathered outside.
Magistrate Tom F. Veldman set a trial date of Feb. 4 for Mrs. Mandela and seven other defendants charged with abducting four young men from a Methodist Church house in December 1988. The case also was transferred from the local magistrate's court in Soweto to the regional court in Johannesburg.
Mrs. Mandela, 56, and her husband, leader of the African National Congress, sat quietly until she was called to stand in the defendant's box. Then she stood throughout the hourlong proceeding and spoke only in response to a question about what language she would like to be tried in. She chose English.
Mrs. Mandela was released without bail and instructed to inform the court of any change of address. She and her husband are planning a trip to Asia and the Soviet Union next month.
Outside the courthouse, supporters carried signs saying "We Love Our Winnie" and criticizing police officials. Several women, dressed in the colors of the ANC, sang songs of support.
"I think she will get a fair trial," said Sam Molefe, 70. "They must give her a fair trial." He added that he believed she would be found innocent because "there's not enough evidence against her."
"She must be given a chance," said Rita Xhosa, who said she was a member of the ANC's cultural department. "We just want justice done."
The indictment charges Mrs. Mandela and the others with four counts of kidnapping and four counts of assault "with intent to do grievous bodily harm." It said theyoung men were beaten with fists and whips, kicked, trampled upon and thrown around in Mrs. Mandela's home.
Mrs. Mandela has said that she was not present during any assault, but three of the men testified during a previous case that she took part in the beatings.
Her former chief bodyguard, Jerry Richardson, was sentenced to death last month for the murder of a 14-year-old activist who was among the group taken to Mrs. Mandela's home. Police found the boy's body in a field in early January 1989. He had been severely bruised, and his throat had been cut. Witnesses at the Richardson trial said Mrs. Mandela's bodyguards had accused the youth, Stompie Moeketsi, of being a police informer and not fit to live.
Richardson testified that the young men were taken from the Methodist home, where they had been living, after a woman informed the Mandela bodyguards that a minister was having homosexual relations with them.
Among those charged along with Mrs. Mandela were Xoliswa Falati, 36, the woman who made the accusation against the minister, and her 18-year-old daughter, Nompumelelo. Also charged was John Morgan, 61, who was Mrs. Mandela's driver, and four of the young men who served as her bodyguards: Katiza Cebekhulu, 22; Mpho Gift Mabelane, 19; Sibusiso Brian Mabuza, 19; and a juvenile whose name cannot be divulged under South African law.