Boy's death returns to haunt Winnie

Click to follow
The Independent Online
Four years after President Nelson Mandela's former wife Winnie was convicted of kidnapping and beating a Soweto schoolboy - later killed by her notorious bodyguards - the murder of Stompie Seipei Moeketsi, 14, has returned to haunt her.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), set up to investigate the atrocities of the apartheid era, has announced that Ms Madikizela- Mandela is being subpoenaed to appear before a private hearing later this month in connection with amnesty applications from her former guards - nicknamed the Mandela United Football Club - including club "coach" Jerry Richardson, who was jailed for his part in Stompie's death.

Ms Madikizela-Mandela should be prepared to answer questions that reach far beyond Stompie's murder. Dumisa Ntsebeza, head of the commission's investigative unit, said TRC investigators had uncovered new information about the club's operations. Former club members' applications apparently reveal new details not just about their own activities but those of their mistresses.

The commission is refusing to confirm an internal leak that the information concerns as many as 11 murders or a newspaper report that the TRC had received a map of a mine shaft in Johannesburg where the bodies of other Soweto children were dumped. But South African newspapers have quoted commission "sources" saying former team members are "singing" in an attempt to win amnesty.

Although the commission hearing involving Ms Madikizela- Mandela - expected to take place in the next few weeks - will take place in private, the TRC is allowed to release information at its own discretion. It can turn its findings over to the criminal courts.

Stompie was kidnapped from a church home in Soweto in 1989 and taken to Ms Madikizela-Mandela's home where he was severely beaten. The President's former wife claimed she took the teenager because he was being sexually abused. Although charged with murder, Ms Madikizela-Mandela was convicted only of kidnapping and beating the boy. She was sentenced to six years in jail but this was later reduced to a fine.

Since the murder trial the fortunes of the once undisputed Mother of the Nation have fluctuated wildly. Mr Mandela appointed her deputy minister for arts and culture but later sacked her for insubordination.

Last year the President divorced her after a four-year separation, making it clear that while she bravely kept the cause alive during his long incarceration they had had no real relationship after his release. Few would deny the pressure she was under during the apartheid years. But even before Stompie's death her excesses were an embarrassment to the African National Congress.

Earlier this year she proved her grass-roots support at least has not died when she romped home in the elections for the leader of the ANC Women's League. But her overall fall from grace was underlined in the South African newspapers yesterday. Beneath the front-page story of her summons by the TRC was a headline announcing President Mandela is to holiday in Britain in July with his "sweetheart" Graca Machel.