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URGENT Mrs. Mandela Arrested After She Returns to Soweto Home

December 22, 1985

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa (AP) _ Police arrested black activist Winnie Mandela on Sunday after she defied a government order and returned to her home in Soweto where officers had expelled her at gunpoint the day before.

Some 16 security police descended on Mrs. Mandela’s home in the black township outside Johannesburg soon after 11 a.m. Police with armored cars blocked off both ends of the street.

″I saw them dragging her very badly out - one policeman on each arm,″ said Elvis Phele, a friend of Mrs. Mandela’s daughter, Zinzi.

On Saturday, officers seized Mrs. Mandela after she refused to leave Soweto voluntarily under a revised ″banning order″ signed by Minister of Law and Order Louis le Grange.

The minister said he had lifted the 8-year-old order banishing the wife of imprisoned black activist Nelson Mandela to the rural town of Brandfort, but declared that she still may not reside in the Johannesburg and adjacent Roodepoort districts, which cover all of Soweto, the nation’s largest black township.

In the capital, Pretoria, a spokesman at police headquarters said Mrs. Mandela had been arrested for contravening the new restrictions. He said he had no information on where she’d been taken, or whether she would be held.

Shortly before her arrest Sunday morning, Mrs. Mandela said she knew returning to the house could prompt harsh government action.

″I am here back in my house with the full knowledge, which they have told me, that if they ever find I have set my foot in the house they will eliminate me,″ Mrs. Mandela, 50, said in a CBS News interview.

″I am no different from those who have paid the supreme price in the sacrosanct cause we are fighting for,″ Mrs. Mandela said.

Police also rounded up six foreign journalists at the house who had been meeting with Mrs. Mandela, took them to a nearby police station and released them 30 minutes later.

Mrs. Mandela said had been left Saturday night with no money at the airport Holiday Inn some 15 miles outside Johannesburg. Black staff members at the hotel raised enough money to buy her a third-class rail ticket back to Soweto, she said.

Speaking before she was seized again Sunday morning, Mrs. Mandela said police treated her ″absolutely violently″ when they dragged her away the day before.

″They insinuated time without number that I knew what had happened to opponents of apartheid who are just like myself,″ Mrs. Mandela said, describing the drive in a police car from her home to Pretoria, and then to the airport hotel.

″I was aware they were threatening me with my life ... I was completely at their mercy,″ said Mrs. Mandela.

Mrs. Mandela said police action against her appeared to be linked to what she said was the isolation of her husband in Cape Town’s Pollsmoor jail since he underwent surgery in November for an enlarged prostrate gland.

Nelson Mandela, jailed for life on a conviction of plotting sabotage, is one of South Africa’s most popular black leaders fighting apartheid, under which 5 million whites rule 24 million voteless blacks.

Mrs. Mandela’s Brandfort house was badly damaged in an arson attack in August, and she refused to return as ordered after the home was repaired in November.

She has recently flouted several provisions of her banning order, including prohibitions on meeting more than one person at a time, appearing at political gatherings and addressing news conferences.

In other developments, police and troops blocked entrances to Pretoria’s Mamelodi black township as hundreds of blacks began gathering for a funeral of three black riot victims.

They included a 2-month-old baby who died from tear gas fumes after a police opened fire on a Nov. 21 protest in the township against rent incrases. At least 15 people were killed.

Troops at Mamelodi’s western entrance barred reporters, telling them they required written permission from police chiefs to enter.

Update hourly