Soccer Club Scandal Prompts Advice, Lawyer Says : Mandela Tells His Wife to Be Silent

From Times Wire Services

Imprisoned black leader Nelson R. Mandela has instructed his wife to make no public statements about the controversy surrounding herself and her band of young bodyguards, Winnie Mandela's lawyer said Sunday.

Looking grim, she refused to talk to reporters after her three-hour visit to Victor Verster Prison in Paarl, outside Cape Town.

Her attorney, Essa Moosa, refused to give details on the meeting.

The attorney would only say that Nelson Mandela instructed his wife not to speak publicly about the controversy that has severely damaged her reputation.

The uproar centers on her bodyguards, who called themselves the Mandela United soccer club. Anti-apartheid groups have renounced Winnie Mandela for ignoring their appeals that she disband the group, claiming that the club has waged a "reign of terror" in Soweto, the sprawling black township outside Johannesburg.

The situation worsened after three people who had direct or indirect links to Winnie Mandela and her live-in bodyguards were killed in the last two months. Two bodyguards have since been charged with murdering 14-year-old activist Stompie Mokhetsi Seipei, whom soccer club members reportedly accused of being a police informer.

Winnie Mandela visited her husband Feb. 15 and only recently decided to act on his instruction to remove the soccer club members from her house.

Anti-apartheid groups have emphasized they still support Nelson Mandela, head of the African National Congress guerrilla movement and the country's best known black leader. Mandela has been serving a life sentence in prison since 1962, when he was convicted of sabotage.

Sought to Help Youths

Winnie Mandela, a trained social worker, formed Mandela United in 1986, saying she wanted to organize activities for youths congregating on streets near her house. But the group, numbering as many as 30, grew into an unofficial bodyguard that seldom played soccer and often antagonized members of the community.

The controversy came to a head last month when three young men told a Soweto community meeting that the bodyguards abducted them Dec. 29 from the Methodist church home of the Rev. Paul Verryn, a white pastor. They were taken to Mandela's home in Soweto and were beaten. A fourth youth, Seipei, was abducted at the same time, said the men, who implicated Mandela.

Mandela, who has denied involvement in Seipei's death and claims there is a plot to discredit her, has said her bodyguards were trying to protect the four young men, who she asserted were being sexually molested by Verryn. Verryn and the Methodist church deny the charges.

The ANC's exiled leaders have appealed to blacks not to shun Winnie Mandela but to unite to avoid manipulation by the South African government.

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World
61°