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  • South Africa Report


    Bodyguard Accuses Madikizela-Mandela

    By Lynne Duke
    Washington Post Foreign Service
    Thursday, December 4 1997; Page A34

    In testimony remarkable for its ramblings and disturbing in its descriptions of death, the key figure in Winnie Madikizela-Mandela's brutal bodyguard squad today claimed that the erstwhile "mother of the nation" ordered several murders in the 1980s.

    But Jerry Richardson, the "coach" and chief killer in the bodyguard unit known as the Mandela United Football Club, also undercut his own credibility by confessing to South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission that he was a police informer during the days of white-minority rule and even set up the death of two black anti-apartheid fighters he had "sold out" to the security forces. "My hands are full of blood," he said.

    An enigmatic and bizarre figure with an intelligence level that his lawyer said was extremely low, Richardson, 48 and a convicted murderer, was the last of three dozen witnesses to testify before Madikizela-Mandela, the former wife of President Nelson Mandela, finally speaks for herself on Thursday. Her testimony will mark the climax of a so-far inconclusive examination of how her bodyguards became the font of murderous mayhem in the black township of Soweto in the 1980s, and whether she took part.

    An icon of the fight against apartheid, which ended in 1994, Madikizela-Mandela was jailed and tortured several times while her husband was serving 27 years' imprisonment. Nelson Mandela was released from prison in 1990, the couple separated in 1992, he was elected president in 1994, and they divorced last year.

    The truth commission was established shortly after South Africa's transition to nonracial democracy to uncover abuses committed under apartheid. While most hearings have focused on misdeeds by the white security forces, the commission is now probing the dirty secret of the anti-apartheid movement: killings associated with the woman who nearly was the nation's first lady.

    But of the three dozen witnesses who have testified over eight days, many are convicted criminals or clearly unbalanced or have axes to grind or political agendas to protect. Of all the witnesses, Richardson was the most given to long soliloquies and stalling tactics during his day in the spotlight.

    Desmond Tutu, the famously good-natured Anglican archbishop emeritus and truth commission chairman, warned him not to make a mockery of the process. Each morning, Richardson has arrived for the hearings in manacles and handcuffs, but mugging for the television cameras as he held aloft the miniature soccer ball he carries like a fetish.

    "This is not a circus," Tutu declared. "Some have already referred to it as a circus, and they will say it is a real circus when they see you behaving as you do."

    But Richardson could scarcely be corralled. Richardson said Madikizela-Mandela -- whom he referred to as "Mami" both in his live testimony and a written statement -- ordered five killings that her bodyguards dutifully carried out. All the victims were killed because they had been labeled as informers -- if only for not following Madikizela-Mandela's orders properly, he said. Richardson described how he and others beat, kicked and punched such suspected informers, slammed them to the ground and slit their throats, then buried or dumped their bodies.

    "I killed under the instructions of Mami," he said. "Mami never killed anyone, but she used us to kill a lot of people."

    Richardson's testimony refuted that of the only other former bodyguard to accuse Madikizela-Mandela of murder. Katiza Cebekhulu, another police spy within the club's ranks, testified last week that he saw a figure he believed to be Madikizela-Mandela stabbing Moeketsi "Stompie" Seipei in the neck. Seipei, 14, was abducted along with three other youths in December 1988 and killed in January 1989 after being beaten nearly to death at Madikizela-Mandela's home. She was convicted in 1991 for the boy's kidnapping.

    Madikizela-Mandela and several others rained blows on the youth, using a whip, shoes, a light cane and fists, Richardson said today. Richardson and others threw the diminutive Seipei violently into the air and allowed him to crash to the ground seven times, Richardson said. "Mami was sitting there watching," he said. When Seipei fell to the ground, "we kicked him. We just kicked him like a ball."

    In the audience, Joyce Seipei, a mournful mother from a small town, wept into her hands.

    Richardson continued. Because Seipei was badly injured, the football club decided -- with Madikizela-Mandela's participation in the decision -- that Seipei should be "finished off."

    Richardson said he and another bodyguard took Seipei -- delirious and unable to walk -- to a field.

    "I slaughtered him like a goat," said Richardson. "I put garden shears through his neck and the garden shears penetrated through his neck."

    By now shattered by the testimony, Seipei's mother was escorted from the hall.

    © Copyright 1997 The Washington Post Company

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