A government effort to relax some restrictions on the movements of Winnie Mandela, wife of imprisoned black underground leader Nelson Mandela and a major symbol of resistance among South African blacks, led to a confusing confrontation with police here today.

When Mandela refused to comply with a new order that widened her permitted travel but banned her from the Johannesburg area, which includes the black ghetto of Soweto, police forcibly removed her from her Soweto home and took her to an airport hotel outside the city. They booked a room for her there, but she refused to check in and was seen leaving in a cab.

Late tonight, she was reported to have moved in with friends in Laudium, an Asian township west of Johannesburg, where she was consulting with her lawyers about her next move.

There was speculation that she might continue a four-month campaign of personal defiance by returning to her Soweto home Sunday, challenging the authorities to arrest her so that she could contest the legality of the new restriction order in what could become a major political trial.

South Africa's use of both concession and police power in its handling of Mandela today appeared to underscore its dilemma in dealing with the woman whose situation has, to much of the outside world, become a symbol of the racial conflict here.

For months she has openly defied the banning order that had restricted her to the remote farming village of Brandfort, in Orange Free State. The government's past reluctance to act against her, in the view of political observers, reflects a sensitivity of the Pretoria government to growing internal and international pressures on it to release Nelson Mandela and begin negotiations with the African National Congress, the outlawed antiapartheid movement that he heads.

But Winnie Mandela's increasingly open defiance of her restriction orders has become politically embarrassing for the government. It has increased her standing as a symbol of resistance among blacks, while making the government look weak and indecisive to its white Afrikaner supporters who want to see tough action to end the continuing unrest in the black townships.

Under the new restriction order Mandela is no longer banished to Brandfort, where she was sent eight years ago. Also, she now may be in the company of more than one other person at a time and no longer has to report regularly to the police, as the old order required.

The only restriction on her movements now is that she may not enter Johannesburg and the neighboring town of Roodepoort. That effectively bars her from Soweto, where her home is and where she has been living in defiance of the old restriction order since August, when her Brandfort house was destroyed in a gasoline-bomb attack.

There were dramatic scenes at Mandela's home today when police arrived to serve the new, relaxed restriction order on her. Surrounded by her daughter Zinzi, two grandchildren and other relatives, the wife of the ANC leader refused to accept the new papers or to cooperate with police.

Mandela's lawyers arrived at the house, and the police served the papers on them, explaining that they were not there to arrest her but only to ensure that she comply with the new restrictions and leave the Johannesburg area.

According to lawyer Tayob Kamdar, Mandela still refused to leave voluntarily. "She instructed us to tell the police that she had given them her answer," Kamdar said.

The lawyer said that after three hours of impasse, about 20 policemen armed with shotguns and tear-gas launchers surrounded Mandela's house, while two officers took her by the arms and dragged her from the house to a police wagon.

Police told the lawyers that they were taking Mandela to an airport hotel beyond the city limits, but she did not check in there, although the hotel confirmed that a room had been reserved for her.

A porter told reporters that he saw the police drop Mandela at the Mandela's defiance has increased her standing as a symbol of resistance among blacks. hotel entrance but that she then left in a taxi. Sources close to the family said later that she had gone to stay with friends in the Asian township, and telephoned her lawyers from there to join her for a late-night consultation about her next moves.

Mandela's new restriction orders still prevent her from attending political gatherings or entering educational institutions, and the local news media still may not quote her.

But, except for a few months when the restrictions lapsed in 1976, they allow her greater freedom of movement and social contact than she has had since the ANC was outlawed and her husband was sentenced to life imprisonment 23 years ago.

For most of those 23 years Mandela has been under intense police surveillance. She has been watched constantly, subjected to frequent searches by the security police and arrested many times for even minor transgressions of her stringent restriction orders.

But since leaving Brandfort after the gasoline-bombing, Mandela has defied the restriction orders with apparent impunity.

She moved into her Soweto home without seeking permission to leave the banishment area, and after the Brandfort house was repaired, she ignored three official orders to return there by Nov. 4.

She traveled freely about the country, gave several press conferences in defiance of the gag order and addressed a funeral rally in Mamelodi, a black township outside Pretoria, three weeks ago.

In other developments today, a spokesman at ANC headquarters in Lusaka, Zambia, confirmed that six of nine persons killed in a commando raid on homes in Maseru, the capital of Lesotho, on Friday were members of the organization, which is banned in South Africa.

According to the Maseru government, the other three were Lesotho nationals. Lesotho is a black-ruled state completely surrounded by South Africa.

In Durban, six white vacationers were injured when a black youth threw a bomb into a minibus. The attack followed the death of six whites in a land-mine explosion last Sunday, marking a sudden increase in white casualties in the racial unrest that has claimed more than 950 black lives in 16 months.