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Winnie Madikizela-Mandela Goes On Trial For Fraud - 2002-07-09

South Africa's Winnie Madikizela-Mandela has gone on trial, accused of a scam that police said put thousands of stolen dollars into her pocket.

Madikizela-Mandela is charged with defrauding a South African bank of about $100,000. Police said she and a co-defendant, Addy Moolman, obtained 85 fraudulent loans. Investigators charge that more than half the proceeds of the loans were deposited into her personal bank account.

Madikizela-Mandela pleaded not guilty to the charges. If convicted, she faces a possible jail sentence.

This is not the first time Madikizela-Mandela has been in court.

Most of the court appearances were political charges brought by the former apartheid government of South Africa. At that time, she was the wife of then-jailed Nelson Mandela, and was a struggle hero in her own right, renowned at home and abroad for her defiance of apartheid.

But toward the end of the apartheid era, she and her bodyguards, known as the Mandela United football club, allegedly kidnapped and assaulted some youths in Soweto, near Johannesburg. One boy died. Madikizela-Mandela was found guilty of kidnap and assault, and one of her bodyguards was convicted of the boy's murder.

Former president Nelson Mandela appointed her a deputy minister in his cabinet in 1994. But he fired her for insubordination one year later. And, in 1996, he divorced her, saying that from the time of his release from prison he had felt he was the loneliest man in the world.

Madikizela-Mandela's strongest test came during a 1998 Truth and Reconciliation hearing which heard testimony over a three-week period that she and her bodyguards had terrorized Sowetans in the waning years of apartheid. Several people testified about torture and other ill treatment, and others said that their loved ones disappeared after being with Madikizela-Mandela and her bodyguards.

Madikizela-Mandela remains popular with the poor in some areas and is president of the ANC, African National Congress Woman's League. She is a member of South Africa's parliament, but is being investigated for failure to comply with parliament's income and assets disclosure requirements.