JOHANNESBURG, South Africa -- Jerry Richardson, coach of the notorious Mandela United Football Club, told the Truth and Reconciliation Commission yesterday that Winnie Madikizela-Mandela ordered all the murders and assaults he committed.
"My hands are full of blood today because I was instructed to kill and I would do as I was told," said the key witness against the former wife of President Nelson Mandela.
"She was the one that gave the go-ahead or green light for anything that happened. Everything I committed was an order. It was an instruction given to me. I never on my own volition did such things.
"The things we did as the Mandela football club are horrible," said Richardson. "They're barbaric."
Commissioner Fazel Randera asked Richardson how a father of young children and a soccer coach could be turned so readily into a "killing machine."
Replied Richardson, "Things got out of hand.
"I am not proud of what I did, but I feel I am serving my sentence and, to me, that is enough."
Madikizela-Mandela sat grim-faced as he implicated her in the beatings and executions of young men and one young woman who were suspected of being police informers in the late 1980s.
She will respond today to the accusations presented to the commission during eight days of hearings into the violence that surrounded the "mother of the nation" and the soccer club she started in 1986 to keep young men out of trouble on the streets.
The club, according to testimony to the commission, quickly developed into a vigilante gang that terrorized the black township of Soweto.
Madikizela-Mandela, judging from her attorney's handling of the hearing, will present herself as a maligned social worker who was unaware of the club's activities. She also can be expected to ridicule the credibility of her accusers, most of whom have criminal records and have admitted lying, if only to protect her from prosecution.
Throughout his daylong testimony, Richardson stuck by his assertion that she authorized the beatings and killings of and by members of the soccer club.
Chilling to petulant
Overall, his performance swung from the chilling to the petulant. Theatrically, he carried a miniature orange and white soccer ball to the witness table. His answers to questions were frequently evasive or obstructive. His memory appeared to wax and wane at will.
"There is some honesty," quipped an exasperated Archbishop Desmond Tutu, commission chairman, when Richardson admitted he was "trying my luck" by applying for amnesty for his crimes.
Ishmail Semenya, attorney for Madikizela-Mandela, seized the moment: "I want to put it to you that your suggestion that all of these activities were done at the instruction of Madikizela-Mandela is, as you put it, 'trying your luck.' "
Richardson replied: "I deny that. There's absolutely no truth in that statement."
The mother of Stompie Seipei, a 14-year-old club member who was accused falsely of being a police informer, wept as Richardson began to describe how her son was beaten and killed. She left the hearing before the most gruesome details of how Richardson and a comrade called "Sledge" ended Stompie's life.
"I slaughtered him like a goat," said Richardson, a burly man with an aggressive demeanor who is serving a life sentence for the murder. Madikizela-Mandela was convicted of taking part in the youth's abduction and received a suspended sentence. "We made him lay on his back and put the garden shears through his neck. The shears punctured to the back of his neck.
"Sledge also had his own pair of garden shears. He cut Stompie's neck. He really wanted to make sure he cut Stompie's throat.
"Ultimately we saw that Stompie was dead. We went into a river and washed the traces of blood off."
Constantly referring to Madikizela-Mandela as "Mammy," he told the commission: "I killed Stompie under instructions from Mammy. Mammy never killed anyone. She used us to kill a lot of people. She didn't even visit us in prison. She used us."
Richardson said he became impatient during an attempt to kill another suspected informer, Leratodi Ikaneng.
"They weren't doing a professional job," he said. "I took the shears. I stabbed Leratodi through the neck. When I pulled the garden shears [out], I could hear Leratodi gasping, and blood was coming out of his mouth.
"I realized he had not yet died. We took him and threw him in a shallow grave."
Ikaneng survived to give similar testimony to the commission this week.
After he slit the throat of a young woman, accused of being an informer after Madikizela-Mandela allegedly became a rival for her boyfriend's affections, Madikizela-Mandela wanted to be shown where he had hidden the body, near a school, he said. He took her to the site where she worried it would be found. It wasn't, until Richardson showed police the grave in 1995.
Richardson admitted being a police informer himself, betraying the presence of two guerrillas in his house. The guerrillas were killed in a raid by the police, which also left Richardson's police "handler" dead.
Richardson was asked by Khoza Mgojo, a member of the commission, how he had escaped the fate of the other informers. He replied: "They were very scared of me."
The commission, which is not a court of justice with powers to establish guilt or innocence, will issue its final report to President Nelson Mandela in June.
Pub Date: 12/04/97