On a day in which Winnie Madikizela-Mandela was accused of murdering young activists and throwing their bodies down a disused mine shaft, it was still quite a moment.
In the middle of his testimony, Katiza Cebekhulu, a former member of the notorious Mandela United Football Club, suddenly stopped answering his lawyer. A murmur spread through the packed hall as he stared at the table diagonally opposite. "I saw her kill Stompie," he said pointing his finger at Mrs Mandela.
For two days, accusations of murder and violent assault have flowed at a special week-long hearing of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the body set up to expose the atrocities of the apartheid years, into the activities of Mandela United Football Club, the private bodyguard set up by Mrs Mandela in late 1980s, and who terrorised Soweto.
Already there have been alleged eye witness accounts of the Darling of the Struggle punching young activists who were accused of being spies, and of beating love rivals.
But Mr Cebekhulu, a crucial witness - accused with Mrs Mandela in the 1991 trial for the kidnap and murder of 14-year-old Stompie Sepei Moeketsi - is the first to claim he actually saw Winnie kill.
He says he was spirited out of the country by ANC officials on the eve of the trial which found Winnie guilty of kidnapping Stompie, but not murder.
Yesterday he claimed he saw Mrs Mandela stabbing someone in the garden of her Soweto home beside the jacuzzi, at around midnight towards the end of December 1988. "I saw her raise her hand twice," he said, adding that she was holding something. "It was something that was shiny ... and she was stabbing."
As Mrs Mandela looked on, stoneyfaced, he bought his arm down twice on the table to demonstrate the motion.
Mr Cebekhulu had been allowed to testify earlier than originally scheduled because he and his self-styled champion Baroness Nicholson were returning to Britain yesterday.
He claimed he chanced upon the murder after returning from the bathroom and that he scuttled back to bed terrified by what he had seen. The next day he claimed there were pools of blood by the jacuzzi. Stompie was missing.
Mr Cebekhulu claimed that three young men held captive with Stompie at Mrs Mandela's house had said that Gerry Richardson, Mandela United team captain and a devotee of Mrs Mandela, came and took Stompie during the night. Stompie was never seen alive again.
Richardson is serving life for Stompie's murder after admitting he slit the boy's throat. He is expected to give evidence to the TRC later this week, claiming he was instructed to kill Stompie by Mrs Mandela.
Mr Cebekhulu, accompanied by Baroness Nicholson, said Mrs Mandela personally ordered the assault on Stompie a few days before his murder after he was accused of being a police spy and of sleeping with local clergyman, Paul Verryn, now a Methodist bishop.
Mr Cebekhulu, the focus for Katiza's Journey: The Missing Witness, recently published by Fred Bridgland, said Mrs Mandela told him to claim he had been sodomised by Mr Verryn. He now says his accusations were lies, and that were used by Mrs Mandela to justify the kidnapping of Stompie.
Earlier, Mr Cebekhulu also claimed he saw Mrs Mandela, Richardson and other team members kicking and beating Lolo Sono, a Soweto teenager, with a sjambok whip in the garage of her home.
"She had a heavy whip in her right hand, which she was hitting him with again and again," he said. " I had no doubt he was dying". He corroborated the evidence of Lolo's father, Nicodemus, that Mrs Mandela turned up at his house with Sono battered and bruised and that she had said Lolo was a spy who would be dealt with by the movement. The youth was never seen again.
Mr Cebekhulu's evidence literally wiped the smile off Mrs Mandela's face. He was preceded by Xoliswa Falati, 45, a former friend of Mrs Mandela's, who now claims the alibi she gave Mrs Mandela in connection with Stompie's death was false.
Ms Falati was emotional. She spat out the name of Mrs Mandela, saying she and her daughter had gone to jail to protect Mrs Mandela. "You don't know her," she repeated. "She thinks she is a demi-god."
One would have sworn Mrs Mandela, who giggled throughout Ms Falati's testimony, was trying to wind her up. "She is pointing at me that I am crazy," Ms Falati complained to Archbishop Desmond Tutu, TRC chairman.
Ms Falati claimed to have witnessed Winnie beating Stompie. In hearings which at times seemed surreal, she claimed she could point out a mine shaft where Winnie had dumped her victims. She was still begging the TRC to search the mine as she left the stand. Mrs Mandela's lawyers suggested Mrs Falati was unbalanced.
Strange it may seem, but it was Mrs Mandela who demanded this public airing of the allegations against her. The credibility of some witnesses yesterday suggested it was a gamble which might pay off.
In three weeks at the ANC annual congress, she will contest the deputy leadership of the party, putting her within striking distance of president of South Africa.The ANC leadership is against her standing. But many blacks - and some whites linking the hearings to former state president P W Botha's refusal to appear before the Commission. Why, they say, should Winnie answer if Mr Botha, the custodian of the system which persecuted her, does not?Reuse content