Mbeki brushes off Winnie

2001-06-17 07:43

Soweto - In an annoyed gesture, President Thabo Mbeki on Saturday brushed off ANC Women's League President Winnie Madikizela-Mandela so harshly that her baseball cap fell off.

Madikizela-Mandela had arrived late at a Soweto soccer stadium where the 25th anniversary of the Soweto uprising was commemorated. As she stepped out of a car, parts of the crowd began chanting "Winnie, Winnie, Winnie," briefly interrupting a speech.

When Madikizela-Mandela arrived on the stage, she put her hands on the shoulders of Mbeki, who was sitting on a chair next to other political leaders. She then leaned down to greet him with a kiss on the cheek.

Mbeki lifted his left hand in an apparent attempt to block the kiss, causing Madikizela-Mandela's black ANC baseball cap to fall off.

Mbeki turned and spoke brusquely to her, then faced the audience, shaking his head, apparently angry, The Sunday Independent reported. During the exchange, Home Affairs Minister Mangosuthu Buthelezi picked up Madikizela-Mandela's cap, stood up and appeared to calm her down, the newspaper said.

Madikizela-Mandela, ex-wife of former President Nelson Mandela, is a controversial, yet popular figure in South African politics.

During hearings with the country's Truth and Reconciliation Commission, she was linked to killings, torture, assaults and arson carried out by her bodyguards in the late 1980s. She was unapologetic in her testimony before the commission, saying she had been fighting a just war.

Mbeki's press officers were not immediately available for comment. - Sapa-AP