Winnie Mandela Defies Ban, Is Pulled From Home

Times Staff Writer

Winnie Mandela, wife of imprisoned black nationalist leader Nelson Mandela, was dragged out of her home by police here Saturday when she refused to comply with a new government order prohibiting her from being in the Johannesburg area.

Mandela, 49, was pulled from the house, resisting most of the way, and across the small front yard by two policemen, put into an unmarked police car behind a cordon of heavily armed riot police and eventually driven to an airport hotel with orders to leave in the morning.

But Mandela, who has increasingly challenged the minority white government by boldly ignoring its restrictions on her political activities, left the hotel immediately, declaring that she was returning to Soweto, and disappeared into the night. Her lawyers said later that she was safe and staying with friends near Pretoria, the South African capital.

A police spokesman said that Mandela had not been formally arrested Saturday but only taken into custody and removed from Johannesburg under terms of the new government order barring her from entering Johannesburg and the neighboring Roodeport magisterial district.

"This new banning order basically denies Mrs. Mandela permission to live in, or even go to, what she calls her rightful home in Soweto," one of her lawyers said, asking not to be quoted by name. "She made very clear to the police that she would not voluntarily accept its terms."

But the new order, signed on Friday in Cape Town by Louis le Grange, the minister of law and order, relaxed many of the stringent previous restrictions on her--a tacit admission that there was little hope of enforcing the old order without imprisoning her and giving anti-apartheid activists another martyr.

Le Grange said in a statement from Pretoria on Saturday that his new order ends Mandela's enforced residence in the small farming community of Brandfort in the Orange Free State about 200 miles southwest of Johannesburg, no longer requires her to report regularly to the police and allows her to attend nonpolitical, social gatherings for the first time since she was originally "banned" in 1977 and prohibited from being with more than one person at a time.

However, the new order appears aimed at keeping Mandela out of the Johannesburg area, which she has always regarded as her home and where she has lived since her Brandfort home was heavily damaged by arsonists in August. This would severely limit her political activities, since Soweto remains the center of black politics. The new order renews the government's prohibition on her participation in any overt political meetings and on being quoted within South Africa.

Domestic, Foreign Critics

The government, which decided on the measures at a special Friday meeting of the state security council, also seems to hope that the elimination or relaxation of many of the harshest restrictions on Mandela will win favor with domestic and foreign critics, who have long attacked her exile to Brandfort.

The government is also under new pressure from angry whites to take tougher action against the outlawed African National Congress and its supporters here after black guerrillas stepped up their attacks in recent weeks on "soft" white civilian targets.

In the latest incident, according to police, two young white girls, aged 4 and 9, the daughters of a vacationing Johannesburg couple, were injured Saturday when a mine or grenade exploded under the family's van on a crowded street in central Durban. The girls' parents, three clerks at a nearby store and two passers-by were also injured, one critically, by the explosion. The device was thrown by a black youth, police said.

The attack, one of the first deliberately aimed at white civilians, is certain to bring more calls for government action to curtail the continuing civil unrest here. Last Sunday, six whites, four of them children, were killed in a land mine explosion on a game ranch near South Africa's border with Zimbabwe, bringing calls for swift retribution.

Previous Order Faded

The whole complex of issues was reportedly discussed Friday at the special meeting in Cape Town of the state security council, chaired by President Pieter W. Botha. The council, made up of senior ministers involved in foreign affairs, defense and security and the chiefs of the armed forces, police and intelligence services, decided on the new banning order for Winnie Mandela.

The old banning order had gradually become a dead letter as Mandela first refused to live in exile any longer in Brandfort, then gave a series of press conferences attacking government policies, and this month addressed about 4,000 blacks after a funeral for 12 victims of unrest at Mamelodi, outside Pretoria, in her first such public speech in 25 years.

The government was thus left with a growing challenge to its authority, with a banishment order it could enforce only at the risk of serious protests, and with demands from abroad to demonstrate political flexibility, all amid new calls from the ruling National Party's white constituency for sterner measures.

The new order and the actions taken so far to enforce it appeared to be the state security council's solution to this conundrum.

'Cannot Stay Here'

"You can go anywhere you want in the country, live anywhere you want, but you cannot stay in Soweto, in Johannesburg," one security police officer told Mandela during a 3 1/2-hour confrontation at her home here Saturday. "You don't have to go back to Brandfort . . . but you cannot stay here."

Mandela adamantly refused to sign the order, which she saw as acknowledging its terms or its legality, according to family members and lawyers who were present, and repeatedly declared her intention to remain here.

"If you won't sign, we will arrest you," one of the policemen warned, the witnesses said, and again she refused.

Witnesses said that at one point, as the argument continued, a policeman drew his gun and pointed at her neck but that she only shrugged her shoulders.

Finally, two policemen, handing their rifles to colleagues, grabbed her by the arms and dragged her out of the house. She resisted all the way, relatives said, and was manhandled out the doors, through friends gathered in the small yard and into a waiting car while riot police ringed the house, preventing hundreds of black onlookers from getting close.

Won't Go Willingly

"They are at liberty to do what they please," she told reporters, who were then ordered by police to leave under government regulations placing limitations on the reporting of unrest in South Africa. "They said they have come to arrest me, and I simply said that I am not going with them willingly."

The action was taken under South Africa's severe internal security laws granting the government sweeping powers that cannot be effectively challenged in court. Soweto, in addition, was placed under a state of emergency five months ago, giving the police virtual martial-law powers here.

"We really do not know what our position is," one of Mandela's lawyers said. "This new order was totally unexpected. . . . We did think there might be some action against Mrs. Mandela following the letter last month telling her to return to Brandfort, but these measures are not what we thought most likely.

Makes 'Her Homeless'

"Although it is true that the restrictions on her have been eased significantly, the effect of the new order is to make her homeless, to remove her from the place she regards as home and tell her she can be anywhere else but there."

Le Grange in his statement, however, referred to Brandfort as Mandela's home, although she said weeks ago that she would never go back there to the fire-gutted house, and now she no longer is required to do so.

In the country's continuing unrest, a 15-year-old black girl was beaten to death by other black youths using whips near Queenstown in eastern Cape province, according to police, who believe she may have been killed for violating the black consumer boycott of white merchants there.

Police said that black shoppers continue to face intimidation from youths enforcing consumer boycotts in the Johannesburg-Pretoria region despite efforts by the security forces to break the protest actions.

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World
58°