THE African National Congress is facing an internal crisis over new allegations concerning the activities of Winnie Mandela, head of the ANC's social welfare department and wife of ANC President Nelson Mandela.
"The Winnie Mandela scandal has gone beyond Winnie Mandela," said the liberal Weekly Mail in an editorial on Friday. "On trial now ... is the ANC and its leader, Nelson Mandela."
Deep divisions over the way Mr. Mandela and the ANC have dealt with the allegations against Winnie Mandela could significantly weaken the organization at a crucial juncture in negotiations for a transfer of power to a majority government.
The Monitor reported April 6 that Mrs. Mandela allegedly was involved in the deaths of an anti-apartheid youth, Stompie Moeketsi Seipei, and a prominent Soweto physician, Abu-Baker Asvat, in 1989. Vocal opposition
An increasingly vocal body of opinion from within the ANC is pushing for Mrs. Mandela to be suspended from her ANC positions despite an official bid Thursday to close ranks behind her, according to highly placed sources in the ANC who asked to remain anonymous.
"It is impossible not to sympathize with [Nelson] Mandela's personal predicament," the Weekly Mail editorial stated. "But it is also impossible to ignore the strain which it is placing on his judgment and on the workings of his organization. Frankly, it is time for Mandela to make some tough choices."
The Weekly Mail, an independent journal which is broadly supportive of the ANC, also hammered ANC Secretary-General Cyril Ramaphosa for putting his name to a statement which condemned a "trial-by-media" and suggested that the press was being manipulated by forces hostile to the ANC.
"Mr. Ramaphosa, even your closest friends must be dismayed by the fact that the organization and its president have failed so dismally to deal decisively with a problem that has bedeviled you for years - and will continue to do so."
Vrye Weekblad, a left-wing Afrikaans-language weekly, accused the ANC of a series of cover-ups of the truth surrounding Winnie Mandela and said that if the inaction by the ANC was to protect Mr. Mandela it was misplaced.
"The overwhelming feeling [within the ANC] is unabashedly that she must go," said the Weekblad. Second codefendant speaks out
The turmoil in ANC ranks deepened this weekend when the Sunday Times of Johannesburg reported yesterday that a second codefendant in the Mandela kidnap and assault trial, John Morgan, said that he lied in the trial to protect Mrs. Mandela and was seeking immunity from perjury in return for "telling the truth."
In the interview, Mr. Morgan, who has remained silent until now, said that Mrs. Mandela had personally ordered him to remove the murdered body of Stompie, a teenage anti-apartheid activist, from her home in Soweto in January 1989 and to "dump the dog."
Mrs. Mandela was convicted of kidnapping Stompie and three other youths from a Methodist manse but was found guilty only of being an "accessory after the fact" to assault, which indicates that she was not directly involved in the assault.
The trial judge, Michael Stegmann, did not reject Mrs. Mandela's alibi that she was in the town of Brandfort during the assault on the four youths by some members of her bodyguard, the United Mandela Football Club.
But Morgan said in the Times interview that Mrs. Mandela never went to Brandfort on Dec. 29, 1988 as she claimed, but was present in Soweto and personally led the assault on the four youths.
"This is the most devastating indictment of Mrs. Mandela to date," said a lawyer close to the Mandela trial but not directly involved.
An ANC official told the Monitor Friday that Mr. Mandela had been persuaded by senior ANC colleagues several weeks ago to withdraw his influence to protect his wife and further her career in the ANC.
A statement about a Mandela separation and a go-ahead for an ANC executive to review Mrs. Mandela's official positions was to have been made last Tuesday, the official said.
But new allegations in the April 5 London Sunday Times suggesting Mrs. Mandela's involvement in a string of murders and new allegations about her role in Asvat's murder published in the Monitor April 6 prevented Mr. Mandela from going ahead with the announcement, the official added.
"There was sympathy for his argument that if he announced the separation at that point it would have given credence to the new allegations and he would have become party to her destruction," the official said. Closing of ranks
ANC apologists for the "closing of ranks" say that the attack on Mrs. Mandela has become an attack on the ANC itself as parties prepare for the country's first nonracial election next year.
"How else can one explain that this assault on Mrs. Mandela has come at such a crucial moment in the negotiating process?" asked one ANC loyalist.
Last week the South African Police reopened an investigation into allegations linking Mrs. Mandela to Asvat's death.
According to Monitor sources, Asvat had refused to corroborate Mrs. Mandela's claims that the abducted boys had been molested by a white Methodist minister.
The Times reported last week that another codefendent, Zoliswa Falati, also claimed she had lied in court to protect Mrs. Mandela. Mrs. Falati, who is appealing her kidnapping and assault conviction and is currently in the care of ANC intelligence wing, denied that report Friday.