Four white women from this city who went to visit their friend Winnie Mandela after her banishment to Brandfort have decided they will accept jail terms rather than answer police questions about their visits.
Three of the women, Ilona Kleinschmidt, 28, Jackie Bosman, 31, and Barbara Waite, 42, were sentenced to one year, in prison for "obstructing the course of justice."
Veteran anti-apartheid militant Helen Joseph, who was a banned person for five years and spent nine years under house arrest, received a four-month sentence. The judge took into account that she is 72 and has a heart condition.
The women refused to answer questions because under South African law, if they made a statement to the police, they later could be called as state witnesses. "We refuse to participate in the continued persecution of Winnie," said one of her friends. They are appealing the sentences.
"Winnie is like my daughter," said one of the women, "and we visited her to keep the lifelines open." They would each speak to Mandela, one-by-one, to comply with the terms of her banishment, the woman added, but the security police were always watching.
On one occasions, two of the women sat in their car in a downpour and watched Mandela, who stood on the pavement. They saw some bushes part and a face appear behind them. "There's [Sgt. Gert] Prinslob." One of them shouted, and the Brandfort security policeman emerged from the bushes.
"It's such an undignified way to make a living, spying on women," said another of Mandela's friends.
For Waite, this encounter with South African security police is a first. Born in South Africa, Waite said she "has never been anywhere in my life." A devout Anglican nurse, she met Mandela through her church.
"I didn't loof for this situation. I was suddenly faced with it. Everyone comes to a crisis when they are living in an evil society and I believe apartheid is evil," she explained.
Waite has received support from friends and even from her hospital supervisors whom she describes as "ring-wing." "They don't understand what makes me tick, but they like me in spite of it. I think they think I'm quite a nice Communist."
Security policemen seized the passport of Kleinschmidt shortly before midnight last Wednesday, to days before she was scheduled to go to Europe to visit her husband whom she has not seen for a year. He fled South Africa two years ago after being banned for his political activites.
The decision of the women is "terriby important," one of them said, "so that blacks will know there are some whites who will suffer with them."