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South Africa: Information on the Mandela United Football Club

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board, Canada
Publication Date 1 May 1992
Citation / Document Symbol ZAF10810
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, South Africa: Information on the Mandela United Football Club, 1 May 1992, ZAF10810, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6ad1540.html [accessed 21 September 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

 

Please find attached some documents which describe the Mandela United Football Club.

One article states that the "Mandela United soccer team" was formed by Winnie Mandela in 1986 and its members acted as her bodyguards (The Globe and Mail 16 Feb. 1989). Another article indicates that the club exerted a "reign of terror" over Soweto since 1986, when Winnie Mandela returned to that township after eight years of exile in the Orange Free State (The Daily Telegraph 14 May 1991).

The club reportedly wore orange and green track suits, accompanied Mandela as personal bodyguards and set up a "kangaroo court" at the back of her home "where judgement was pronounced and punishment meted out to opponents and anyone they regarded as traitors" (Ibid.). The article adds that the club members did not play soccer but were involved, between 1987 and 1989, in more than twelve murders, several abductions and at least two rapes (Ibid.). The club reportedly kept a "black book" of prospective victims to be taken before their court, where punishment "invariably involved beatings," and has been held responsible for "throwing grenades into a shebeen, shootings, blowing up houses and, after one kidnap, carving `Viva ANC' into the flesh of two teenagers and pouring battery acid on their wounds" (Ibid.). The source adds that Winnie Mandela claimed ignorance about the club's "nefarious activities" although it operated from her home and several people reportedly testified that she was a party to the violence and presided over the "kangaroo courts" (Ibid.).

Another news article describes the Football Club as "a group of tough youths who live with Mrs. Mandela, and act as her private security force" (Ibid. 30 Jan. 1989). The report adds that the team was accused of "exploiting their links with the Mandela name to terrorise local people, and are alleged to have abducted and abused teenage girls" (Ibid.). According to the source, Soweto activists formed a "Mandela Crisis Committee" that urged Winnie Mandela to disband the team. Four youths who were staying at a Soweto Methodist church were reportedly abducted by the team in what some activists stated was a "retaliation for the Methodist minister's involvement with the Mandela Crisis Committee" (Ibid.). One of the youths reportedly suffered serious throat injuries caused by a pair of garden shears while another went missing (Ibid.). The missing youth, "Stompie" Seipei, was later found dead (see below and Response to Information Request 10811 of 15 May 1992 and its attachments).

The Associated Press states that in February 1990 "a group of South Africa's most prominent black leaders said the soccer team engaged in a `reign of terror' in Soweto" and "urged the community to shun Mrs. Mandela" (AP 8 Aug. 1990).

An oral source consulted by the IRBDC described the Mandela United Football Club as not being a sports club, but rather a group of black youths gathered around Winnie Mandela and organizaed by Jerry Richardson (Private Consultant 6 May 1992). The source added that this group invariably posed as Winnie Mandela's bodyguards, adding that the black community in South Africa has accused it of employing intimidation tactics and being involved in "questionable dealings" (Ibid.).

One article describes the Mandela United Football Club as a group of young bodyguards who acquired a reputation in Soweto as "a gang of ruthless thugs" held responsible for at least 16 murders (Christian Science Monitor 9 Oct. 1990). The group is blamed for "a series of kidnappings, beatings and murders [that] culminated in December 1988 with the abduction of four youths from a Methodist mission in Soweto" (Ibid.). The leader of the group, Jerry Richardson, was convicted for the murder of the youngest abduction victim, "Stompie" Seipei (Ibid.).

References

The Associated Press (AP). 8 August 1990, AM Cycle. "Winnie Mandela's Bodyguard Sentenced to Death." (NEXIS)

The Christian Science Monitor. 9 October 1990. John Battersby. "Winnie Mandela Stages Comeback Despite Court Challenges Ahead." (NEXIS)

The Daily Telegraph. 14 May 1991. Neil Darbyshire. "The Mandela Soccer Club: How Winnie's Team Played to Kill." (NEXIS)

. 30 January 1989. Stephen Robinson. "Mrs. Mandela's `Football Club' Accused of Foul Tactics." (NEXIS)

The Globe and Mail. 16 February 1989, p. A14. "Mandela Van Impounded by Police." (NEXIS)

Private Consultant and author of reports on South Africa, Ottawa. 6 May 1992. Telephone Interview.

Attachments

The Christian Science Monitor. 9 October 1990. John Battersby. "Winnie Mandela Stages Comeback Despite Court Challenges Ahead." (NEXIS)

The Daily Telegraph. 14 May 1991. Neil Darbyshire. "The Mandela Soccer Club: How Winnie's Team Played to Kill." (NEXIS)

. 30 January 1989. Stephen Robinson. "Mrs. Mandela's `Football Club' Accused of Foul Tactics." (NEXIS)

Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at http://www.irb-cisr.gc.ca/en/. Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

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