"I loved Mama with all my heart," said Jerry Richardson, 49, convicted killer and former "coach" of Winnie Madikizela-Mandela's notorious Mandela United Football Club. "I would have done anything to please her." Anything, he testified, included murder.
On the eighth day of public hearings into murder and assault allegations against Mrs Mandela and her vigilante "club", which terrorised Soweto in the late 1980s, it was the turn of the man who once led the team to tell his story.
Richardson told the Truth and Reconciliation Commission he had killed four people on Mummy's (the members' term of endearment for Mrs Mandela) orders.
"Mummy never killed anyone," said Richardson, serving life for the 1989 murder of activist Stompie Seipei Moeketsi. "But she used us to kill a lot of people."
He said Stompie, whose kidnap Mrs Mandela was convicted of, was killed on Mama's instructions. Like Stompie, Soweto youths Lolo Sono and Sibuisiso Shabalala were murdered after being accused of spying. The fourth victim, Kuki Zwane, was killed because she would not end her relationship with Sizwe Sithole, the father of Mrs Mandela's grandchild.
Even after days of harrowing testimony, Richardon's evidence read like a horror movie in which he was psychopathic killer at the slavish bidding of a violent mistress. He said that when he killed Stompie it had been a matter of "finishing him off". The boy was already almost dead from a beating at Mrs Mandela's home. He had been thrown into the air seven times and kicked "like a football". Mrs Mandela, 63, had joined in with sjambok and fists.
The detail was too much for Stompie's mother Joyce. She let out a cry and was led from the hall weeping. With so much focus on what the hearings mean for Mrs Mandela's political career, it was a reminder that they are also about the suffering of the weak at the hands of the powerful.
Richardson's story supports assault accusations against Mrs Mandela by other witnesses but contradicts former team member Katiza Cebekhulu's claim that he saw Mrs Mandela stabbing Stompie.
There was laughter when Richardson was asked why he was applying for amnesty. "I'm trying my luck," he said. After days in which so few witnesses have seemed to tell all they know, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, TRC chairman, said wryly, "There is some honesty, at least."
But Mrs Mandela could also afford to laugh. Richardson, like other accusers, would hardly make a credible prosecution witness in a court. That fact might have had something to do with the arrival of three cabinet ministers and a provincial premier at yesterday's hearing. It was the largest show of support so far from the ANC, apparently still hedging its bets on Mrs Mandela's survival. Today, she will have her say.Reuse content