Witness ties Mandela's ex-wife to killing Testimony is first to say she actually took part in a murder

November 26, 1997|By Gilbert A. Lewthwaite | Gilbert A. Lewthwaite,SUN FOREIGN STAFF

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa -- In the pale moonlight of a December night in the backyard of her Soweto home, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela raised her arm and stabbed the limp body of teen-age activist Stompie Seipei, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was told yesterday.

As he crossed the yard on his way to his bedroom, the glint of "something shiny" caught the eye of Katiza Cebekhulu, a member of the Mandela United Football Club, whose members protected the former wife of President Nelson Mandela and terrorized her enemies,

Cebekhulu, flown from Britain to testify and given police protection while here, was the star witness yesterday in the hearing into the reign of terror Madikizela-Mandela and her club allegedly imposed during the waning years of apartheid.

He told the commission he first noticed Jerry Richardson, coach of the football club, carrying a small, limp body across the yard and laying it beside the Jacuzzi. He could not see whose body it was.

But Richardson had emerged from the room where Stompie, a 14-year-old club member suspected of being a police agent, had been detained after being beaten for almost an hour the previous day, allegedly by Madikizela-Mandela, Cebekhulu, Richardson, and other bodyguards.

Cebekhulu testified under oath that, hidden behind a bed of tall flowers and bushes, he watched as the alleged death stabs were delivered. "I saw Winnie raise her hand twice. There was something that was shiny in her hand," he said, striking the witness desk twice with his hand.

"I was scared as to what I was seeing, whether it was a nightmare or what," he added.

Cebekhulu's version of Stompie's death in 1989 conflicts with the murder confession of Richardson, who has claimed he slit the teen-ager's throat with a pair of shears "as if slaughtering a sheep."

Richardson is seeking amnesty for killing Stompie -- at, he claims, Madikizela-Mandela's behest -- and two other youths, who also were suspected of being police agents.

His chance of freedom depends on his willingness to give a full and accurate account of his crimes and his ability to convince the commission that they were politically motivated.

She is impassive

Madikizela-Mandela, who sat impassively, has denied involvement in any of the murders, and claims she was out of town when Stompie was beaten and killed in her home.

She already has been convicted and fined for kidnapping Stompie and three other youths.

One of those youths, Pelo Mekgwe, yesterday challenged her alibi, saying she was present when the four youths were beaten for allegedly having homosexual relationships with a priest.

He said she smacked him with her open hands, while others struck him with a whip and lifted him up and dropped him on the floor.

While the beating went on, Xoliswa Falati, an activist with the African National Congress, was ordered by Madikizela-Mandela to go outside the room and sing to drown out the screams.

"After the assaults Madikizela-Mandela said: 'You must clean up the blood,' " Falati told the commission. "As they were cleaning up, Stompie was put in a bath of water, naked and hit on the xTC head. I was there. Mrs. Mandela was there."

Falati said she later lied at the criminal trial to support Madikizela-Mandela's claim of being out of town.

"That was our culture -- to protect our leaders," she said. "I was scared. I had seen the brutal beatings."

"She dehumanized a person," she said of Madikizela-Mandela. "She refused a person life. She regards herself as a super being. She wants to be killing all the time because she regards herself as a demigod."

'Sellout' to police

Falati said she also told her "leader" that she thought Stompie was a "sellout" to the police. This led to the four youths being rounded up and taken to the Mandela house, where they were beaten. And, she said, she was the one who passed on the false homosexual story.

Cebekhulu said that while staying at the Soweto house, he saw (( Madikizela-Mandela whipping one of the boys, Lolo Sono, who was lying on the concrete floor of the garage.

Cebekhulu said he reported Stompie's murder to the police and the attorney general, but neither would believe him.

He was eventually told by Madikizela-Mandela that he had the alternative of going into exile in Swaziland "or she would do as she pleased with me." She promised him help if he left the country, he testified.

"So I elected to go to Swaziland because I was scared to be around her," he said.

After Cebekhulu had given his account of Stompie's murder, Madikizela-Mandela's attorney, Ishmail Semenya, questioned his emotional and mental stability and suggested his testimony was "a fabrication."

Replied Cebekhulu: "I would not be able to fabricate such a story. I don't have the capability."

He acknowledged he had been sent by a magistrate for mental observation at a previous court hearing, but added: "I am not crazy."

'She killed him'

When commission counsel Hanif Vally pointed out to Cebekhulu that he was the only person to say he saw Madikizela-Mandela stab Stompie, the witness replied: "I don't know what I can do in order for you to believe I am speaking the truth. I am telling you, she killed him."

The commission will present its final report to the president and Parliament in July.

Those it judges to have been victims of gross human rights violations or their families will be eligible to apply for reparation payments. It also can recommend that cases be referred to the attorney general for prosecution.

Pub Date: 11/26/97

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