Mandela keeps his distance from wandering Winnie

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The Independent Online
President Nelson Mandela publicly distanced himself yesterday from his estranged wife, Winnie, as she struggled against a police investigation of kickbacks that may cost her ministerial job.

The flamboyant Mrs Mandela cut short an unauthorised trip to West Africa and returned to Johannesburg yesterday, a day after dozens of policemen raided her offices for documents and spent hours combing her plush modern brick mansion in Soweto.

The 59-year-old deputy minister for arts, culture, science and technology smiled and raised her fist as security men cleared a passage out of the airport. Her daughters, Zindzi and Zenani, whisked her away.

Mr Mandela's spokesman said the issue of her presence in the government of national unity would be handled by the deputy president, Thabo Mbeki, over the weekend. The president told reporters in Cape Town: "It would be improper for me to interfere with the police in carrying out their duties. I would not interfere even if they raided my own house."

South Africa's Commercial Crime Unit has accused Mrs Mandela of taking a 75,000 rand (£13,600) kickback and being promised a future £6,000 a month in exchange for using her influence to steer low-cost housing contracts to a company in which she allegedly also wanted her daughter Zindzi to have a half-stake.

Mrs Mandela made no immediate comment yesterday. After the raids, she released a statement saying that she was "astounded and unspeakably angry . . . I find myself back where I was before 1990. I survived those times and I will survive these times as well with the support of my people."

Her supporters also note that corruption scandals were a regular occurrence during South Africa's 45 years of white- minority rule and rarely brought to book.