A Supreme Court judge Monday found Winnie Mandela guilty of kidnapping four young men from a church home in 1988 and of being an accessory to assault in the beating of the youths at her home.
Mandela, wife of African National Congress leader Nelson Mandela, had been charged with kidnapping and assault, but the judge reduced the assault charge to being an accessory after the fact.Mandela, 56, and her co-defendants had proclaimed their innocence. The co-defendants, Xoliswa Falati and John Morgan, were each found guilty of kidnapping and Falati was found guilty of assault.
Sentencing was set for Tuesday, and Mandela was released on her own recognizance. The judge could sentence Mandela and her co-defendants to anything from suspended sentences to lengthy jail terms.
The three had been charged in the abduction and beating of four young men from a Methodist Church home in the black township of Soweto. One of the youths, Stompie Seipei, was later killed, and Jerry Richardson, Winnie Mandela's former bodyguard, was convicted in the death last year.
Of Mandela's claim that she was 200 miles away when the crimes took place, Justice M.S. Stegmann said: "Mrs. Mandela had authorized the kidnapping before leaving" home.
Stegmann said Mandela devised "an elaborate story" to try to conceal what happened.
South Africa does not have jury trials, and the judge reaches the verdict alone.
The trial heightened tensions between the government and the ANC, which are trying to negotiate the dismantling of apartheid but are locked in a dispute over ways to end worsening black factional fighting. The ANC says the government is not trying to end the bloodshed.
Nelson Mandela, who was in jail at the time of the crime, was in court Monday.
In finding Falati guilty, the judge said suggesting that the abduction was carried out without Winnie Mandela's knowledge was like "trying to imagine `Hamlet' without the prince."
Before rendering his verdict, the judge had criticized Mandela for being evasive in testimony she gave during the three-month trial.
"I can only conclude she did not wish to disclose the whole truth," he said.
The judge also said Mandela had been evasive about a group of youths who lived at her home and were called the Mandela United Soccer Club. Critics claim the club served as a bodyguard for Mandela and attacked her opponents.
Of Mandela's claim that she did not know about the club's activities, the judge said, "This was nonsense."
Defense attorneys and the prosecutor had concluded their arguments Friday. Prosecutors contended the four young men were taken from the church home and beaten because the defendants believed they were homosexuals or had spied for police.
Mandela, who emerged smiling from the court accompanied by her husband, said, "I just want you all to know I did not assault any child and the rest is up to my attorney."
Several hundred people outside the court shouted ANC slogans and called for Mandela's release as she emerged.