Winnie Mandela Trial Focuses on Credibility

Prosecution challenges claim she was away during assault on youths

THE controversial trial of Winnie Mandela, wife of African National Congress Deputy President Nelson Mandela, focused last week on the credibility of her claim that she was not present when crimes were committed. Mrs. Mandela, who is charged with kidnapping and assaulting four black youths in Soweto in December 1988, has based her defense on the claim that she was in the small town of Brandfort, 230 miles south of Soweto when the assaults occurred.

But two of the youths who gave evidence for the state - Kenneth Kgase and Thabiso Mono - insist that Mrs. Mandela struck them with her open hands, her fists, and a whip.

Mrs. Mandela was unable to give state prosecutor Jan Swanepoel any sound reason why the youths would have fabricated evidence against her.

Her alibi - that she had returned to Brandfort to renew welfare projects initiated during eight years of forced exile - became the main focus of cross-examination of her testimony last week.

The state alleges that Mrs. Mandela ordered the abduction of the four youths from a Methodist manse in Soweto on Dec. 29, 1988, and that she subsequently initiated - and participated in - their assault at her home with members of her personal guard known as the Mandela United Football Club.

Jerry Richardson, the leader of the Club, was sentenced to death in a separate trial last May for the murder of one of the four youths, Stompie Moeketsi Seipei (age 14).

Mrs. Mandela insists that she was staying at the home of Nora Moahloli, a black school teacher, near Brandfort when the youths were assaulted. But Mr. Swanepoel exposed discrepancies between Mrs. Mandela's version of her visit to Brandfort and Mrs. Moahloli's version.

Mrs. Mandela was unable to explain why she had not raised her visit to Brandfort - either in news-media interviews or statement{et

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