Winnie Mandela is arrested twice in one day for leading women's protests

May 23, 1991|By Jerelyn Eddings | Jerelyn Eddings,Johannesburg Bureau of The Sun

JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA ( — JOHANNESBURG, South Africa -- Less than two weeks after her conviction on kidnapping and assault-related charges, Winnie Mandela was hauled off to jail yesterday for leading protests against the detention of political prisoners.

Police charged Mrs. Mandela, the wife of African National Congress leader Nelson Mandela, with obstructing traffic and resisting arrest after she and about 200 other women blocked a downtown street with a truck and a heavy chain.

After she was charged and released by a regional magistrate, Mrs. Mandela led another protest outside City Hall and was arrested a second time by officers who used tear gas and dogs to break up the gathering.

"You see how they dare to attack innocent women," Mrs. Mandela said before she was driven off by police. "They have manhandled me right in front of the public for the second time today."

Mr. Mandela, who visited his wife after the first arrest, said that she had been badly bruised in the scuffle and that he was considering filing assault charges against the officers.

Capt. Eugene Opperman, a police spokesman, said officers used force against Mrs. Mandela and the other women because they were resisting arrest. "The necessary force was used to bring Mrs. Mandela under control," he said.

The arrests took place as ANC leaders launched a nationwide campaign of protests and fasting on behalf of hundreds of political prisoners who remain in government custody despite an agreement last year between the government and the ANC that all political prisoners would be released by April 30.

The ANC has demanded the immediate release of the remaining prisoners, but government officials blamed the anti-apartheid organization for delays in processing some of the prisoners for release.

The protests over political prisoners heated up as the government moved toward meeting another ANC demand -- that all South Africansbe banned from carrying dangerous weapons in public.

The government announced that all weapons would be prohibited in public in unrest areas but that "cultural weapons" could be carried at cultural events if the sponsors received prior permission from the government. President F. W. de Klerk said last week that weapons would be barred in public but that "cultural weapons" such as walking sticks and spears would be exempted.

Mr. Mandela has charged that Zulu rivals of the ANC have been allowed to carry dangerous weapons at public rallies and have used those "cultural weapons" in deadly attacks on innocent people.

Mr. Mandela has said that the government must act on the issues of weapons and political prisoners, among others, if power-sharing negotiations are to proceed. Last weekend, the ANC announced that it would suspend constitutional talks with the government until the demands were met but would continue discussions with officials about curbing the violence in black townships.

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