Prosecutor says Winnie Mandela lied, calls for conviction in kidnap case

May 07, 1991|By Jerelyn Eddings | Jerelyn Eddings,Johannesburg Bureau of The Sun

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa -- The prosecutor in Winnie Mandela's kidnapping and assault trial called for her conviction yesterday, saying she had lied, evaded questions and repeatedly contradicted herself on the witness stand.

In final arguments before a Johannesburg judge, state prosecutor Jan Swanepoel said that Mrs. Mandela's testimony "was unsatisfactory in general" and that "her evidence about her alibi was likewise unsatisfactory and improbable. . . . Consequently, it is submitted that she should be convicted as charged."

Mrs. Mandela testified last month that she was 200 miles from her Soweto home when four young men were brought there and severely assaulted Dec. 29, 1988. Two of the victims said they were abducted by Mrs. Mandela's bodyguards and beaten, kicked and whipped by several people, including Mrs. Mandela. One of the four was found dead a week later.

In the two years before the trial, Mrs. Mandela made no statement about having been in the town of Brandfort on the night of the alleged kidnapping, mentioning it for the first time after the trial began Feb. 4.

"Any reasonable person in [Mrs. Mandela's] position would have disclosed his alibi, and she does not have a satisfactory explanation for not doing so," Mr. Swanepoel told Judge Michael S. Stegmann.

Mrs. Mandela, 56, the flamboyant, outspoken wife of Nelson Mandela, is one of eight persons charged with kidnapping and assault. She has been designated by the court as Accused 8.

"Although Accused 8 bears no onus of proving her alibi," Mr. Swanepoel argued, "her failure to disclose it before the trial is in the circumstances of this case a significant factor."

Mrs. Mandela came under severe criticism in 1989 from anti-apartheid leaders who said her bodyguards, known as the Mandela United Football Club, had been terrorizing the Soweto community.

Charges have been dropped against one of the defendants because of inadequate evidence, and four others jumped bail. A ninth person, Jerry Richardson, who has been described as Mrs. Mandela's chief bodyguard, was convicted of murder in an earlier trial in connection with the incident.

Mrs. Mandela said she was in Brandfort planning social work projects when the young men were brought to her Soweto home. She said she was told they were brought there for protection from a homosexual minister who had been abusing them in his parsonage.

The two victims testified that before they were beaten, three of them were accused of having homosexual relations with the minister, Rev. Paul Verryn. The fourth victim, Stompie Moeketsi Seipi, 14, who was found dead Jan. 6, 1989, was accused of being a police informant, they said.

The prosecution is expected to complete its summation today, and then Mrs. Mandela's defense attorney will get his turn.

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