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Government Publicizes Event Involving Black Activist

July 22, 1988

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa (AP) _ The government publicized on Thursday an event that journalists said features Winnie Mandela, wife of the imprisoned leader of the African National Congress, Nelson Mandela, and a prominent anti-government black activist in her own right.

The government said it did not know Mrs. Mandela, was involved. However, a spokeswoman for the government’s Bureau for Information said the activity supported a good cause and the government would have publicized it anyway.

The Bureau sent a telex to news agencies on Thursday about a blanket and clothing giveaway Friday in Alexandra, a black township surrounded by the richest white suburbs of Johannesburg.

It said it was sending the notice on behalf of Robert J. Brown.

President Reagan nominated Brown, of High Point, N.C., as ambassador to South Africa in 1986, but Brown withdrew his name after questions were raised about his business dealings.

Brown visited Nelson Mandela in November 1987 in the prison where he is serving a life sentence for sabotage and for plotting the overthrow of the government. The ANC is fighting the white-led government’s apartheid policies.

By law and custom, apartheid establishes a racially segregated society in which the 26 million blacks have no vote in national affairs. The 5 million whites control the economy and maintain separate districts, schools and health services.

Mrs. Mandela named Brown in a news release later Thursday as her worldwide representative to protect the use of the Mandela family name.

Although the Bureau for Information did not know in advance that Mrs. Mandela was to be involved in Friday’s event, spokeswoman Caro Hoon said the notice of the event would have been sent to news agencies anyway.

″We are here to provide assistance to all the people of South Africa,″ she said.

Donations for Friday’s giveaway were made by the Coalition on Southern Africa in the United States. The event was also designed to introduce a food program for the elderly, paid for by U.S. talk show host Oprah Winfrey’s Chicago-based Gathering Nations Luncheon Program.

Armstrong Williams, an American who identified himself as a Mandela family publicist, said he contacted the Bureau for Information to help reach news agencies because ″I didn’t have a list of news agencies ... and we are guests in this country and we wanted to go through channels.″

Ms. Mandela and Ms. Winfrey were not available for comment.

The government’s telex, sent to local and foreign news agencies, said: ″This ceremony ... includes music and special guest.″

Journalists who spoke to Mrs. Mandela said she was to be the special guest and planned to hand out clothes.

Mrs. Mandela later announced she had granted Brown her full power of attorney to represent the Mandela family worldwide.

A news release, issued while Mrs. Mandela posed for pictures with Brown, said she felt it necessary to make such an arrangement ″because people around the world are using the painful history of the Mandela family to benefit themselves.″