Benefactress 'bought Winnie a luxury home'

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The Independent Online
A BIZARRE twist in the intrigue of Winnie Mandela's life emerged last night following a report in yesterday's Johannesburg Sunday Times claiming she had bought herself a luxury home in Cape Town last week.

According to a mystery woman called Hazel Crane, it was she who had purchased the house as 'a surprise gift' for South Africa's new deputy minister of arts and culture. In a statement issued last night, Mrs Crane revealed that she had been Mrs Mandela's benefactress for years. 'I have known Mrs Mandela for a long time and have understood her pain and passion for the poor,' Mrs Crane said. 'I have bought her groceries, clothes and, this time, her accommodation.'

The Cape Town house was said by the Times to be worth 875,000 rand (pounds 160,000), a high price by local standards.

Mrs Crane said that the outfit Mrs Mandela had worn at her estranged husband's presidential inauguration on 10 May had been 'organised and paid for by myself through my designer Spero Villioti'. She also lent Mrs Mandela jewellery for the day.

The alacrity with which Mrs Crane issued her statement evidently responded to the need to fend off fresh embarrassment to Mrs Mandela at a time when Nelson Mandela has made it plain that he wishes his government to set an example of frugality. Last week President Mandela donated 150,000 rand from his salary to a children's fund.

Yesterday's report about Mrs Mandela's home - in addition to her two large properties in Soweto - followed news last week that she and three male bodyguards, had run up a bill of 12,000 rand during a three-day stay last month at a Cape Town hotel. The bill is to be paid by the government.

Neither the government nor Mrs Crane will be able to come to Mrs Mandela's assistance if she loses a legal battle the outcome of which is expected today.

Xoliswa Falati, one of Mrs Mandela's co-accused in her trial three years ago, planned to expose last month further 'atrocities' allegedly involving the erstwhile 'mother of the nation'. But the press conference failed to take place following the intervention of Mrs Mandela's lawyers. They brought out an interdict against Mrs Falati, the legality of which was debated in Johannesburg's Rand Supreme Court last week.