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Winnie Mandela Rejects Offer to Visit Husband on His 70th Birthday

July 16, 1988|Associated Press

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — Winnie Mandela, wife of jailed African National Congress leader Nelson Mandela, on Friday rejected a government offer to let her have a six-hour visit with her husband Monday, his 70th birthday.

The family's attorney, Ismail Ayob, said Winnie Mandela decided to forgo the visit to focus attention on other prisoners held for anti-apartheid activities.

The visit would have been the longest reunion with Mandela since he was jailed in 1962 for leaving South Africa illegally and inciting unrest. While serving a five-year term, Mandela was sentenced in 1964 to life in prison for sabotage and conspiracy to overthrow the government.

Winnie Mandela "will spend the day quietly at home, as she has on (her husband's) birthday for the past 26 years," Ayob said. "She has taken this decision as both she and Mr. Mandela have never sought any special privileges for themselves."

The government confirmed the cancellation.

Ayob said the Mandelas' decision was meant to "focus attention on the tens of thousands of mothers, sisters and daughters and to the fathers, brothers and sons who have never had the privilege of spending the day with their loved ones who remain in incarceration for their opposition to apartheid."

The planned reunion at Pollsmoor Prison was also to include 11 of Mandela's relatives.

Activists in Cape Town said 11 blacks organizing a sports festival to commemorate Mandela's birthday were detained Friday, raising to about 25 the number of people detained in the area in connection with the planned celebrations.

The government has banned a huge charity concert planned for Sunday near Soweto, Johannesburg's main black township. The action was denounced as "silly, vindictive and spiteful" by Helen Suzman, a Parliament member from the anti-apartheid Progressive Federal Party.

Organizers in Cape Town said they would go ahead with a concert Sunday, planned for an indoor venue to avoid restrictions on outdoor gatherings. But an indoor concert planned in Durban was banned by police.

Celebrations are also planned in London and Amsterdam.

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