Court finds Winnie Madikizela Mandela guilty of fraud, theft

Johannesburg- South Africa (PANA) -- The Pretoria Regional Court Thursday sent shock waves across South Africa when it found ANC Women's League (ANCWL) president Winnie Madikizela-Mandela guilty of fraud in a loan scam involving about a million rand (135,000 US dollars) siphoned from the now defunct Saambou Bank.
Madikizela-Mandela was found guilty on 43 counts of fraud, while co-accused financial broker Addy Moolman was found guilty of 58 counts of fraud and 25 of theft from Saambou Bank.
Madikizela- Mandela was also found guilty on the 25 theft charges.
In the matter, the State charged that loan applications for non- League employees, accompanied by letters on the ANCWL letterhead stating that the applicants were in its employ and bearing Madikizela-Mandela's signature, were submitted to Saambou Bank, on the strength of which the bank approved the loans.
The 25 theft charges relate to amounts of 360 rand deducted from loan applicants' bank accounts for a funeral policy scheme that was allegedly not underwritten.
Madikizela-Mandela and Moolman both pleaded not guilty.
Magistrate Peet Johnson, who was assisted by two assessors, delivered his guilty verdict to a packed court, with police out in force in and around the courtroom.
His judgement sent shock waves across South Africa, where Madikizela-Mandela's popularity soared thanks to her defiance of the Apartheid government and her endurance of detention and banishment during the freedom struggle.
In a more recent scandal in 1991, Madikizela-Mandela was found guilty of kidnapping youth activist James "Stompie" Moeketsi Seipei.
But, on appeal her six-year sentence was reduced to two and suspended.
A year later she was separated from South African celebrity and international statesman Nelson Mandela.
They eventually divorced in 1996.
State prosecutor Jan Ferreira, who called in 20 witnesses during the lengthy trial, pushed for the court to find Madikizela- Mandela guilty on 43 of the 60 fraud charges and all 25 counts of theft.
A handwriting expert testified that in 16 of the 60 letters pertaining to the fraud charges, the signatures purportedly made by Madikizela-Mandela were forged.
One of those was a letter accompanying the application of her daughter Zinzi, whose signature was also forged.
Saambou Bank lost about one million rand in the loan scam.
Counsel for the defence said their client could only be convicted of fraud if it was found she that had a common purpose with Moolman, who submitted the applications.
But the magistrate found that the evidence against both accused, who had conducted their own defences, "was overwhelming.
" Madikizela-Mandela's lawyer was Thursday attempting to get her bail extended, while also lodging an appeal.
The outcome of the protracted case may signal the end of Madikizela-Mandela's long political career that was characterised by more than two decades of fighting for the release of her former husband and South Africa's first democratically elected head of state.
Crowds outside the court shouted "viva viva Mandela" during the ruling, but police were on hand to prevent any trouble.

24 april 2003 11:38:00

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