Anti-apartheid activist Winnie Mandela punched and whipped four black males, one of them a boy of 14, and told them they were "not fit to be alive," a witness testified in her assault and kidnap trial Wednesday.
Winnie Mandela, wife of black leader Nelson Mandela, broke off the December 1988 assaults at one point to begin "humming a tune and dancing to a rhythm," victim Kenneth Kgase told the Rand Supreme Court."You are not fit to be alive," Winnie Mandela told the four before beginning to assault each in turn with her fists and a rubber whip the night of Dec. 29, 1988, Kgase said.
He said Winnie Mandela, 56, ordered the four abducted that day from a Methodist Church hostel near her home in the black township of Soweto because she thought they were having homosexual relations with white minister Paul Verryn.
Kgase, 31, and another of the four, Barend Thabiso Mono, 22, agreed to testify at the resumption of the trial Wednesday after refusing last month because they feared for their lives when a third witness disappeared.
Gabriel Pelo Mekgwe was abducted Feb. 10 during the opening stages of the trial. But the other two reconsidered after Judge Michael S. Stegmann recessed the trial Feb. 14 to give them time to decide whether to testify or face renewable prison terms of up to five years for contempt of court.
Kgase told the court he and the other three were taken to Winnie Mandela's house by "a gang of her people" and forced into a room where they were accused by a follower of Winnie Mandela of indulging in homosexuality.
Despite repeated denials from the four, "she punched me, asked more questions, and punched me again. She kept on punching me," Kgase said. He said she also lashed him with a rubber whip.
He said she also whipped Mono, Mekgwe, 21, and James Stompie Moeketsi Seipei, 14, then accused the boy of being a police collaborator.
The boy was murdered several days later by Winnie Mandela's chief bodyguard, who was sentenced to death for the crime last August.
Winnie Mandela, in the dock with four codefendants, listened without expression to the testimony.
They are charged with four charges of assault and four of kidnapping, which carries a maximum penalty of death. Four other defendants jumped bail before the trial began.
Nelson Mandela, deputy president of the anti-apartheid African National Congress, left the courtroom before Kgase testified.
Dr. Martin Connell, a longtime friend of Verryn, rejected as "ridiculous" a suggestion by defense counsel George Bizos that Winnie Mandela would contend she was only performing her "public duty" to protect the four from sexual molestation.
He said he examined Kgase, Mekgwe and Mono several days after their abduction and found all had "similar forms of injuries," including cuts and bruises.
Chief Prosecutor Jan Swanepoel told the court the second abduction of Mekgwe would not be allowed to hinder the trial.
A report in the Johannesburg Star newspaper linked the ANC to Mekgwe's abduction. The reporter, Patrick Laurence, was sentenced to 10 days' imprisonment Tuesday for refusing to reveal his source but was freed on bail pending appeal.
Winnie Mandela has appeared confident throughout the trial and her husband has vowed to stand by her, as she did for him before he was released from 27 years in prison in February 1990.