Winnie Mandela pleaded not guilty Monday to eight charges of kidnapping and assault, but the judge adjourned the trial after prosecutors said a key witness had been kidnapped.

The case was adjourned until Tuesday after a prosecutor said one of the young men allegedly assaulted by Winnie Mandela had been abducted Sunday night. Prosecutors said they could not ask witnesses to testify if their lives were in danger.Winnie Mandela, wife of African National Congress leader Nelson Mandela, and her three co-defendants all pleaded not guilty to separate counts in the Rand Supreme Court. Wearing a green dress and coat, Winnie Mandela looked composed as she heard each of the eight charges.

"I'm not guilty," she told Justice M.S. Stegmann.

State Prosecutor Jan Swanepoel then stunned the court by announcing that one of the key witnesses, Gabriel Pelo Mekgwe, was missing and Methodist church workers who were looking after him said he had been kidnapped.

Mekgwe was one of three young men who testified at an earlier trial that they were kidnapped and assaulted by Winnie Mandela and her bodyguards.


(Additional information)

Bus attack claims 14

Gunmen have ambushed two buses on a road in South Africa's strife-torn Natal province, killing 14 people and seriously injuring 11 in the worst case of black factional violence since rival groups agreed on a peace accord last month, police said Monday.

Internecine battles at a nearby black township between groups wielding hatchets and knives killed three people overnight, police said.

The ambushers, firing rifles and handguns, lined both sides of the Bulwer Road near the provincial capital of Pietermaritzburg late Sunday and "literally raked the buses with gunfire," a police spokesman said.

"We're not sure which side was on the attack this time, but this is certainly part of the ongoing violence here," the spokesman said.

Police had made no arrests in the cases so far.