THE African National Congress (ANC) has formulated a disciplinary commission which could signal the end of Winnie Mandela's political career within its ranks.
The inquiry will probe Mrs. Mandela's role in a public protest carried out last month by her supporters seeking to have her reinstated as head of the ANC's department of social welfare.
Mrs. Mandela, who resigned from the welfare post in April shortly after ANC President Nelson Mandela said he was separating from his wife, was suspended as head of the Johannesburg region of the ANC Women's League last month because of the protest.
Her action was viewed within the ANC as an act of hostility against the organization, and it appears to have left Mrs. Mandela almost totally isolated from ANC leadership.
The appointment of a disciplinary commission, an extreme measure in ANC ranks, could be the first step toward removing Mrs. Mandela from her last position of influence within the ANC as one of the 50 elected members of the national executive committee.
"You could say Winnie has reached the end of the road in terms of the current ANC leadership," says an ANC official who asked not to be named. "There is no question of political comeback within the ANC."
ANC spokeswoman Gill Marcus told the Monitor
that the commission will probe the circumstances surrounding the protest rally and Mrs. Mandela's role in it. Mrs. Mandela denies that she organized the rally.
ANC leaders intervened before the demonstrators could march through downtown Johannesburg, but agreed to receive a letter from the group which accused ANC Secretary-General Cyril Ramaphosa of heading a "cabal" bent on ousting Mrs. Mandela.
MRS. Mandela's political demise gathered momentum after new allegations were made in April about her role in the death of youth activist Stompie Moeketsi Seipei and in the subsequent death of Soweto physician Abu-Baker Asvat.
Mrs. Mandela, who has denied the allegations, remains on bail while she appeals her conviction last year for kidnapping and accessory to assault after the fact. The case involved the beating in her home of four black youths, including Stompie. She was sentenced to six years in jail.
Since the new allegations were published in the Monitor in April, police have reopened investigations into both the Stompie and Asvat cases. Authorities have also ordered new probes into three other murders allegedly connected to Mrs. Mandela and her former bodyguard, the Mandela Football Club.
After her reluctant resignation as head of the ANC's social welfare department in April, it was disclosed that the ANC had frozen the department's bank account and was investigating allegations of fraud.
Mrs. Mandela responded to pressure for her resignation by campaigning in deprived squatter settlements, often being the first ANC leader to confront the authorities when activists were shot. She appeared to win sympathy from the ANC Youth League, sections of the Women's League, and the military wing.
But that sympathy waned rapidly after the public protest and after rumors that she was planning either to form a new political party or a radical platform within the ANC. By the end of the ANC's policy conference last month, Mrs. Mandela appeared an isolated figure with few supporters among the 700 delegates, according to some conference participants.