Judge in Mandela trial allows evidence of more kidnappings

March 20, 1991|By Jerelyn Eddings | Jerelyn Eddings,Johannesburg Bureau of The Sun

JOHANNESBURG,SOUTH AFRICA — JOHANNESBURG, South Africa -- Winnie Mandela suffered a serious setback in her kidnapping and assault trial yesterday when the judge said he would allow evidence to be submitted of two other kidnappings in which she was allegedly involved.

"It is of particular importance to me that the trial should have ventilated all the issues relevant to the guilt or innocence of Mrs. Mandela," said Judge Michael S. Stegmann.

Prosecutor Jan Swanepoel asked the judge for permission to introduce evidence of a kidnapping incident Sept. 26, 1988, in which two men allegedly were taken from their home in the Soweto township in a minibus in which Mrs. Mandela was riding. Mr. Swanepoel said that the men were assaulted, tossed into the air and dropped to the floor, and that Mrs. Mandela's accomplices placed plastic bags over their heads.

Mr. Swanepoel also alleged that Mrs. Mandela took part in the abduction of a 21-year-old Soweto man Nov. 13, 1988, and he asked the judge to introduce a witness to that kidnapping -- the young man's father. The prosecutor said the young man was taken to Mrs. Mandela's home, where he was assaulted, and "he was never seen again."

Mrs. Mandela, the wife of African National Congress leader Nelson Mandela, and three others are facing charges that they kidnapped and assaulted three young men and a teen-ager Dec. 29, 1988. The teen-ager, Stompie Moeketsi Seipei, was later found dead. Mrs. Mandela's chief bodyguard was convicted last year of his murder.

Mr. Swanepoel told the court Monday that he wanted to introduce evidence of previous kidnappings and assaults to show that Mrs. Mandela freely took part in such activities. He said the evidence was necessary to disprove her claim that she was unaware of any such activities at her home.

George Bizos, Mrs. Mandela's lawyer, argued unsuccessfully that the admission of evidence on unrelated incidents would confuse and prejudice the case.

Judge Stegmann ordered the prosecutor to provide Mrs. Mandela's lawyer with the names of his new witnesses and said he might call a recess to give the defense time to review the new evidence.

He is hearing the case without a jury.

Mrs. Mandela said that she was out of town when the four young men were brought to her home in December 1988 and that she understood they came willingly for protection from a Methodist minister who had sexually abused them.

Two of the young men testified earlier that Mrs. Mandela's bodyguards abducted them from the parsonage and took them to the Mandela home. They said they were punched, slapped and whipped by Mrs. Mandela and her guards. The third surviving victim disappeared the day before testimony.

In another development, South Africa granted freedom yesterday to 40 political prisoners, including pro- and anti- apartheid activists accused of bomb attacks and arms theft.

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