Leading anti-apartheid churchman Frank Chikane said Saturday that Winnie Mandela was removing a group of bodyguards from her home on orders from her husband, jailed black nationalist Nelson Mandela.
The bodyguards, who until recently posed as the Mandela United Football Club, are under police investigation in connection with at least one murder in Soweto black township.Anti-apartheid leaders last week denounced Mrs. Mandela for her involvement with the youths, who have been living in her Soweto home, saying she was dragging the Mandela name into disrepute.
Chikane, secretary general of the South African Council of Churches (SACC), told reporters he met with Mrs. Mandela for about five hours Saturday, scotching rumors in the local press that she may have fled the country.
She told him Mandela had advised her to remove the youths from the house when she visited him in his Cape Province prison on Wednesday, Chikane said.
"She has agreed to do exactly what Mr. Mandela said," he added. "I was happy to realize they are taking the word of Mr. Mandela seriously so that all the perceptions surrounding the family can be cleared up."
Mandela is widely understood to have urged his wife to disband the group on previous occasions. But although they have dropped the football club name, they are still seen with Mrs. Mandela in public - most recently at a funeral two weeks ago.
Chikane said he was confident Mrs. Mandela would abide by her husband's wishes this time, and that arrangements would be made promptly for the bodyguards to leave.
Black community leaders have long accused the youths of terrorizing Soweto, and police are investigating allegations they beat and possibly murdered teenage activist "Stompie" Seipei, whose badly decomposed body was identified last week.
"It wasn't just a few young people for security purposes," Chikane said.
Chikane declined to comment on Mrs. Mandela's mental state and stressed he did not visit her to determine guilt but to guard against possible further deaths.
He had not discussed Seipei's death with her.
Referring to suggestions of a violent backlash against Mrs. Mandela and the youths, Chikane said he felt it was his duty to intervene and appeal for calm to avoid further loss of life.
"The community needs to understand that you don't solve a problem by killing another person," he said. "I wouldn't like to see an escalation of other children dying."
Chikane said Mrs. Mandela had agreed to hand over to him a key witness in the Seipei investigation, 20-year-old Katiza Cebekhulu. Chikane said Cebekhulu was very distressed and would make a statement to the police after hospital treatment.