Mandela to wed for third time

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MARYANN BIRD

The wind of change blowing through South Africa may soon sweep Winnie Mandela out of her estranged husband's life, and carry Graca Simbine Machel into it as the President's third wife.

Friends of Nelson Mandela say he wants to remarry soon. Hence his renewed attempts to initiate a divorce from the troublesome Winnie.

Mrs Machel, 50, is the widow of Samora Machel, the Mozambican president who died in a mysterious plane crash in 1986 that many blamed on the South African government.

A former Frelimo guerrilla and education minister in Mozambique, she is considered a "very strong personality" who has campaigned for women's and children's rights. She and Mr Mandela have been "keeping company" since his 1990 release from prison.

Mr Mandela's lawyer filed for divorce on 21 August on the grounds of irreconcilable breakdown of his marriage. Mrs Mandela is reportedly contesting the action because, in the words of one aide, "she knows it is a political attempt to undermine her; she says he can live with anyone he likes, but he can't have a divorce''.

Attempts to serve Mrs Mandela with the papers have failed. She has now departed for Peking to attend the UN World Conference of Women. The President's lawyer, Ismail Ayob, filed documents last week alleging that Mrs Mandela was avoiding the summons - something her spokesman denies.

Mr Mandela, 77, married Winnie in 1958, after divorcing his first wife, Evelyn. Four years later, he was jailed for 27 years by the apartheid regime. The couple separated in April 1992 amid reports that Winnie had been involved in a financial scandal and an affair. She was earlier convicted, then acquitted, of complicity in the kidnapping of a young Soweto activist who was later murdered by her bodyguards.

The Sunday Times in Johannesburg said Mr Mandela has discussed his marriage plans with Archbishop Desmond Tutu. A spokesman for the Archbishop said the cleric "does not consider it his prerogative to discuss whether or not other people have marriage plans".

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