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Mandela trial witness tells of harsh beating


JOHANNESBURG, South Africa -- A nervous witness, glancing furtively at the woman once labeled the "mother of the nation," testified Tuesday that Winnie Mandela hummed and danced as she wielded a plastic whip against four young men who were severely beaten in her home.

In a dramatic day of testimony, Kenneth Kgase described how he and three others were abducted from a Methodist church parsonage in 1988 and taken to Mrs. Mandela's home in the black township of Soweto.

He said they were taken from the parsonage in a large bus and ordered around by a middle-aged man later identified as Jerry Richardson, Mrs. Mandela's chief bodyguard. Mr. Richardson was convicted and sentenced to death last year for the murder of Stompie Moeketsi Seipei, one of the four kidnapping victims.

Mr. Kgase's testimony came as the trial of Mrs. Mandela resumed in a Johannesburg court after a three-week recess that was called when one key witness disappeared mysteriously and two others refused to testify out of fear for their lives.

Mr. Kgase, 31, one of the two, said Monday that he had changed his mind and was prepared to tell what happened on Dec. 29, 1988.

He said the four kidnapping victims were assaulted by Mrs. Mandela, who used her fists and a plastic whip, after she was told that the young men were engaging in homosexual activities with a white minister at the church.

Stompie, a 14-year-old activist, was accused of being a police informant and a government collaborator. All four of the young men lived in the church parsonage with the Rev. Paul Verryn, who worked with homeless and troubled boys in the township.

The accusations were made by Xoliswa Falati, a woman who also lived in the house and who is standing trial along with Mrs. Mandela for kidnapping and assault.

"All of a sudden I was grabbed by my hair. Mrs. Mandela grabbed me. She asked me why did I do that," said Mr. Kgase, referring to the reports of homosexual relations, which Mr. Kgase denied. "Then she punched me below my left eye," he said, touching the left side of his face.

"You mean she punched you with a fist?" asked prosecutor Jan Swanepoel.

"Yes. And she punched me again. And let go of me. And grabbed Stompie by his shoulder. . . . He was punched twice," Mr. Kgase said.

The witness said other members of Mrs. Mandela's bodyguard unit joined in the attack, using their fists, until a whip known as a "sjambok" was produced.

"Mrs. Mandela was humming a tune then and dancing to the rhythm. And all of a sudden I saw her having a sjambok, and she started with me again. I was struck with the sjambok. Before she said anything, she struck several blows."

Asked what the other assailants were doing while Mrs. Mandela beat the four men with a whip, he said they were all sitting and watching.

He said that Mrs. Mandela left at some point during the beatings but that he was not certain when. He did not think she was present when three men tossed Stompie into the air and let him drop to the floor twice.

Mr. Kgase said he also was tossed and dropped three times, but he said four men were needed for the job because he was heavier than Stompie.

Mr. Kgase glanced over at Mrs. Mandela several times as he described the alleged assault. He appeared nervous during that part of his testimony.

Mrs. Mandela, wife of African National Congress leader Nelson Mandela, sat in the defendant's box with three others who are on trial with her.

Eight people have been charged in connection with the assault, but four jumped bail and police have been unable to locate them.

Mrs. Mandela has submitted a statement to the court, saying that she was out of town when the alleged kidnapping took place. But she said that she had received reports of homosexual activities at the church facility and had arranged for a doctor to see one of the boys living with Mr. Verryn.

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