JOHANNESBURG (AP) — Nelson Mandela‘s ex-wife Winnie expressed “surprise and shock” that prosecutors are considering charges against her following the exhumation of bodies believed to belong to two young activists last seen at her home 24 years ago.
In a statement from her lawyer dated Saturday and received Sunday, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela said it is “difficult to legally imagine how and what new evidence is contemplated” given the many diverse accounts presented more than 10 years ago to South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
Forensic scientists last week exhumed two skeletons with multiple stab wounds that they believe belong to Lolo Sono, 21, and Siboniso Shabalala, 19, who reportedly had gone to Madikizela-Mandela’s home to get help to leave the country to become freedom fighters. Forensic pathologists had stumbled on mortuary documents that led to the bodies, buried in a pauper’s grave, and the bodies now are being tested for DNA.
According to evidence to the commission by her bodyguard Jerry Richardson, Madikizela-Mandela accused the two young men of being spies for the apartheid regime and ordered him to kill them. He said he and a colleague stabbed them to death.
Madikizela-Mandela’s statement pointed out that the commission found no evidence of any such order and found only that she was “negligent in that she failed to institute inquiries into the deaths of the two cadres.”
The statement does not refer to the commission’s finding that Madikizela-Mandela was responsible for the disappearances of Sono and Shabalala.
Nothing was done at the time to pursue the allegations.
But last week, the Hawks police crime investigation unit said it has opened two new murder cases, acting on prosecutors’ information that they believed they have discovered the men’s bodies.
Madikizela-Mandela’s statement indicated she felt victimized by suggestions she could be charged in the murders. She pointed to the many different versions of the killings given to the police and the truth commission by Richardson, a friend with whom she has fallen out, and another man who was a member of the notorious Mandela United Football Team. The team acted as her bodyguards in the 1980s but turned into a gang of thugs that terrorized the Soweto black township where she lived, leading residents to set her home there ablaze in 1989.