Assassin to explain alleged links with Winnie Mandela

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Winnie Madikizela-Mandela may have thought her grilling by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was over. But as Mary Braid reports any sense of relief was premature.

A month ago, Mrs Mandela denied taking part in a string of murders, tortures and assaults carried out by her notorious bodyguards the Mandela United Football Club in the late 1980s.

But the evidence presented at the sensational nine-day public hearing is thought to have contributed to Mrs Mandela's failure to become ANC deputy president in subsequent party elections.

Now the TRC, set up to expose the atrocities of the apartheid years, has called 18 former members of the apartheid-era security forces - including Eugene de Kock, the most notorious state assassin, now serving 212 years at a maximum-security prison - to explain publicly their links with Mrs Mandela.

The latest hearings are expected to take place place at the end of the month. Officially the commission says it wants to investigate the extent of police harassment and surveillance of Mrs Mandela but police witnesses may shed light on counter allegations made at the original TRC hearings: that Mrs Mandela was not, in fact, a security police victim but a police spy.

Mrs Mandela is under no obligation to attend the new hearing but she is invited and her lawyers will be permitted to cross-examine witnesses.

Along with de Kock, whose murderous activities earned him the nickname Prime Evil, the witness list includes a judge, crime squad officers and two secret agents, who will give their evidence in camera.

Some of the security force members were named by witnesses in the original hearings. The TRC is reported to be seeking further information about the death of Themba Mabote, an associate of Mrs Mandela and, according to one witness last month, also her former lover. Mr Mabote, who it is also claimed was a police spy, was killed by the security forces. De Kock, former commander of the secret police unit, Vlakplaas, is expected to be questioned about Mr Mabote's death.

Other officers will be quizzed about the murder of Dr Abu-Baker Asvat and the disappearance of Lolo Sono, a Soweto youth. Mrs Mandela has been accused of ordering the death of both.

At last month's hearings, two former secret policemen told the commission that British and US agents secretly helped the apartheid regime spread rumours that Mrs Mandela was a child killer, an alcoholic and drug user.

However, in a blistering attack on Mrs Mandela, another witness, Azhar Cachalia - a leading light in the battle against apartheid - said that in the late 1980s many suspected Mrs Mandela was a police informer.

Mr Cachalia was part of the leadership of the United Democratic Front which publicly distanced itself from Mrs Mandela in 1989. He said everyone seemed aware that there were guerrillas and arms in Mrs Mandela's home and yet the police never raided it.

Others have speculated that the police were simply giving Mrs Mandela enough rope to hang herself and thus discredit her jailed husband.

Some of the football club members were certainly working for the police. Last month, police commissioner George Fivaz said that Jerry Richardson, former coach of the soccer club - now serving life for the murder of teenage activist Stompie Seipei Moeketsi - was a police spy.