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Eight Blacks Charged in Mandela House Fire

August 11, 1988

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa (AP) _ Police said today that eight blacks were charged with public violence in connection with an arson fire at the home of Nelson Mandela, imprisoned leader of the outlawed African National Congress.

Police said the eight range in age from 16 to 22 and were arrested Aug. 3 in the black township of Soweto, outside Johannesburg. They were arraigned in a Soweto court Wednesday, freed on $145 bail and ordered to appear back in court Sept. 12, police said.

They were not charged with arson, ″but it is possible further charges will be formulated,″ said police spokesman Reg Crewe in Pretoria.

The Soweto home that Mandela has rented since the 1940s was gutted in a fire July 28. Township residents said the attack was the result of a dispute between youths who guard the Mandela home and youths from Daliwonga High School in another section of Soweto.

Mandela’s attorney, Ismail Ayob, said the Mandela family was not the target of the attack. Mandela’s wife, Winnie, lived at the home. Her youngest daughter, Zindzi, 27, and her two children lived in a sidehouse that wasn’t damaged. All are staying with friends until the burned house is rebuilt.

No one was at the home during the fire, and no one was hurt.

Ayob said Mandela, serving a life term for sabotage and plotting the overthrow of the government, sent a message from his Pollsmoor Prison cell asking that no one be prosecuted and that the family not file charges.

Soweto police spokesman Maj. Fanyana Zwane was quoted by a Johannesburg newspaper as saying there had been a joint police-military operation last week at a Soweto school ″in connection with the Mandela arson.″

The newspaper, Business Day, quoted Michael Mkhize, principal of Daliwonga High School, as saying police and soldiers surrounded the school on Aug. 3, holding staff and pupils at gunpoint and arresting 22 students. Fourteen of the students were released, he was quoted as saying.

Mkhize was quoted as saying he was ordered to point out members of the Student Representative Council or the Soweto Students Congress, and was treated roughly and held in custody for an hour when he refused.

Police had no comment on those allegations.

State-of-emergency regulations in effect since 1986 restrict reporting about unrest, security force actions, treatment of detainees, some forms of protest, and a broad range of statements the government considers subversive. Enforcement of the regulations has not been comprehensive.

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