JOHANNESBURG — SOUTH African Police have appointed a senior police officer to investigate new allegations published in the Monitor Monday linking Winnie Mandela to the murder of Soweto physician Abu-Baker Asvat on Jan. 27, 1989.
Asvat, who was health secretary of the anti-apartheid Azanian Peoples Organization, was murdered two weeks after he reportedly visited Mrs. Mandela's home to examine a 14-year-old youth, Stompie Moeketsi Seipei, who was assaulted in her home in December 1988.
Stompie was later found dead, and Jerry Richardson, then head of her bodyguard, the United Mandela Football Club, is serving a 19-year jail sentence for the murder.
Two black men, Cyril Mbatha and Johannes Dlamini, are serving jail sentences for Asvat's murder. But wide suspicions remain in anti-apartheid, family, and legal circles that the true motive for his death has not been established.
"We will have a fresh look at the matter and take statements from people who have new information," said Col. Reg Crewe of police headquarters in Pretoria.
Colonel Crewe indicated that the two former associates of Mrs. Mandela, Katiza Cebekhulu and Xoliswa Falati, who were co-defendants in her trial last year, would be among those sought by the police for questioning.
The Monitor published new allegations Monday by Mr. Cebekhulu, who is thought to be in a "safe house" in Lusaka, Zambia, in which he linked Mrs. Mandela to Asvat's death.
Mrs. Mandela was convicted last May in the kidnapping and assault of four black youths at her home in Diepkloof, Soweto and sentenced to six years jail. Her case in on appeal.
Mrs. Falati, who had a public dispute with Mrs. Mandela last week and is now in the care of the African National Congress (ANC), has indicated that she, too, has new information concerning Mrs. Mandela and Asvat.
On Tuesday Mrs. Mandela's lawyer, Ismail Ayob, denied that there was any link between her and Asvat's death.
"Allegations that Mrs. Winnie Mandela is responsible for the death of the late Dr. Abu-Baker Asvat are absurd," Mr. Ayob said in a statement on Mrs. Mandela's behalf.
Ayob denied that Asvat - or any other doctor - had visited any of the youths staying at the back of Mrs. Mandela's house in Soweto in the period before Asvat's death. The lawyer's statement assumed that the source of the story was one of the state witnesses in the trial, Kenny Kgase, whose evidence on the Asvat visit to Stompie was rejected by the judge in the Winnie Mandela trial. The Monitor did not rely on Mr. Kgase as a source.
According to three independent Monitor sources Asvat visited Stompie, the assaulted youth, and recommended that he be sent to a hospital. Asvat also reported to a committee of senior anti-apartheid leaders, known as the Mandela Crisis Committee, on the serious nature of Stompie's injuries, two of the sources said.
It appeared Tuesday that Winnie and Nelson Mandela had closed ranks after publication of the Monitor report. But there was still an expectation among ANC officials yesterday that a statement would be issued soon on the state of their marriage.
The state prosecutor in the trial, Jannie van der Merwe, who spoke to the Monitor, denied yesterday that he had linked Mrs. Mandela to the Asvat murder. He also denied that he had reservations about the police investigations into a link between Mrs. Mandela and Asvat's death as reported in the Monitor April 6.
"I do not have any reason to believe that Mrs. Mandela was involved in Dr. Asvat's death," he says. "As far as the police investigation is concerned, I do not believe there was any reason for a coverup and I was satisfied with their investigation."
Van der Merwe confirmed his view, cited in the Monitor's report, that he "had the feeling" that Asvat's death was an assassination and not a murder during armed robbery. He told the Monitor that on investigation of these suspicions he found they were not sustantiated.