South African auction to sell Mandela ex-wife’s belongings to pay off debts

By Associated Press, Updated: Wednesday, May 15, 10:20 AM

JOHANNESBURG — Dozens of paintings, a silver tea set and other items belonging to Nelson Mandela’s ex-wife Winnie will be auctioned next week to pay off debts she owes to a South African school.

The sale will happen at the home of Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, a polarizing figure who was beloved by many for her role in the anti-apartheid struggle but was also involved in legal troubles over the years, including a kidnapping conviction in the early 1990s.

Madikizela-Mandela collects a salary as a member of parliament, and she is also a member of the national executive committee of the ruling African National Congress, the liberation movement that has led successive governments since the end of white racist rule in 1994.

She defaulted on a $2,150 payment to Abbotts College, which has several high school campuses in South Africa, according to South African media. A relative of Madikizela-Mandela had been studying at Abbotts.

A court ruled against Madikizela-Mandela in 2011. Alan Levy Attorneys, a law firm representing the school system, said the auction will be held Tuesday at her home in the Soweto township of Johannesburg. Items for sale also include tables and chairs, a roomful of books and sculptures.

Her lawyer declined to comment.

Madikizela-Mandela married Nelson Mandela in 1958 but then the couple was separated for 27 years while Mandela was imprisoned by South Africa’s racist white government. He and Winnie divorced in 1997, during his term as the country’s first black president.

Madikizela-Mandela was an anti-apartheid leader in her own right. However, her behavior grew increasingly erratic in the 1980s as crackdowns against her and the ANC grew increasingly intense. She and her former bodyguard unit, known as the Mandela United Football Club, were accused of committing 18 killings and other crimes during this period.

She was convicted of charges including kidnapping in 1991. Initially sentenced to six years in jail, she was ordered to pay a $3,200 fine on appeal.

In March, forensic experts exhumed two skeletons believed to belong to two young activists last seen at her home 24 years ago. No charges have been filed.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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