Spies reveal Pretoria's dirty war on Winnie

Winnie Mandela was portrayed as the victim of a dirty propaganda war at yesterday's Truth and Reconciliation hearing. Mary Braid in Johannesburg says others accused her of being a police informer

Two former spies told the commission that British and American agents secretly helped the apartheid regime to spread rumours that Mrs Mandela was a child-killer, an alcoholic and a drug-user.

South African agents, it was claimed, placed this disinformation about Mrs Mandela in British newspapers.

Paul Erasmus, one of the South African agents, said members of the British Conservative Party's Monday Club were "principal agents" involved in spreading propaganda. His fellow operative, John Louis McPherson, claimed he had been given a list of friendly journalists.

But Azhar Cachalia, the chief ANC appointee in the Department for Safety and Security, said that during the late 1980s - when the murders and violent attacks Mrs Mandela is implicated in, including the killing of Stompie Seipei Moeketsi, 14, took place - many suspected she was a police spy.

"Just about everyone seemed to be aware that there were guerrillas and arms in the Mandela home," said Mr Cachalia, who was part of the leadership of the United Democratic Front, which publicly distanced itself from Mrs Mandela in 1989. He said it was difficult to understand why the police did not raid her home at the height of the state of emergency. "Did they want to use what was happening around her home to discredit our president [Nelson Mandela] when he was released," he mused, shrugging his shoulders. "There were a million agendas."

A murky picture was further confused by an admission from the Police Commissioner, George Fivaz, that Jerry Richardson, former coach of the "Mandela Football Club" and now serving life for Stompie's murder, was a police spy. He was on the police payroll only two years ago. Mr Fivaz claimed he had provided information about other cases.

Richardson attended this week's hearings wearing the colours of the team that rarely took to the pitch but terrorised Soweto. Mr Cachalia said he thought Mrs Mandela was involved in the murder of Dr Abu Baker Asvat a few weeks after Stompie's murder.

The doctor is believed to have seen Stompie after he was beaten for three days at Mrs Mandela's home. Mr Cachalia said that because Mrs Mandela and the doctor had been close friends he had been unable to contemplate the possibility of her ordering the murder.

Mr Cachalia launched an emotional appeal to Mrs Mandela after a commissioner asked if his testimony was shaped by a "political agenda". The commissioner suggested he might be part of an Indian cabal within the ANC, which is hostile to "Africanists`" such as Mrs Mandela. Mr Cachalia said: "Part of me wants to go up and hug you and say `Let us go away from all this' ... But another part of me says we cannot go forward unless there is accountability."

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Plant Fitter - Construction Industry

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This well established construction equipment d...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitm...

Recruitment Genius: Factory Operatives

£7 - £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This high quality thread manufacturer ba...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Day In a Page

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003