Winnie At Bay: Star witness claims he saw boy being stabbed

He was the witness Nelson Mandela forecast would not dare to return to South Africa. The President suggested last week that Katiza Cebekhulu was just too flaky and unreliable a witness.

But the diminutive Mr Cebekhulu kept his promise to return yesterday if his safety was guaranteed. Tucked away in the far corner of the witness rows, only yards from Mrs Mandela and her lawyers, it was only the presence of his self-styled champion, the former Tory MP (and now baroness) Emma Nicholson, in quiet canary yellow, which gave him away.

It is not as if there is a shortage of interesting witnesses-in-waiting. One man, under prison guard, nursed a small football as he waited for his turn.

But Mr Cebekhulu is expected to be one of this week's star turns. His story was told in Katiza's Journey, a book by the British journalist Fred Bridgland, who was in the hall covering the hearings. It caused a sensation in South Africa when it was released. In it Mr Cebekhulu claims he saw Mrs Mandela stab Stompie Seipei Moeketsi, 14, in the garden of her Soweto home. A key witness at the trial at which she was convicted of kidnapping the boy, Mr Cebekhulu disappeared before proceedings started. He claims he was spirited out of the country by the ANC to save the "Mother of the Nation". The book also claims that President Mandela arranged his disappearance. Lured away, he says, by promises of comfort and education, Mr Cebekhulu ended up in Zambia, where Baroness Nicholson eventually chanced upon him languishing in a Lusaka jail.

Mr Cebekhulu, dismissed as a lunatic by Mrs Mandela, was granted immunity from arrest for the kidnap and assault of Stompie so that he could testify this week. He is under witness protection and the TRC refuses to discuss his movements for security reasons.

Other witnesses include the brother of Abu Baker Asvat, a doctor murdered during a robbery at his surgery after Stompie's death. Witnesses will say Mrs Mandela asked Dr Asvat, a family friend, to treat Stompie and that he refused, insisting the boy go to hospital. Dr Asvat's killers recently claimed from prison that they were ordered to kill him by Mrs Mandela.

- Mary Braid

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