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Gunmen Attack Mandela Kin, Kill Child

October 07, 1990|SCOTT KRAFT | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SOWETO, South Africa — Black men armed with hand grenades and rifles attacked the home of relatives of Nelson Mandela before dawn Saturday, killing 15-month-old Gloria Mandela and seriously injuring her parents.

Police had no motive for the attack on the two-room brick home of 43-year-old Monde Mandela, and it was not clear whether the incident was linked to Nelson Mandela's position as deputy president of the African National Congress.

The ANC, in a statement, said it "notes the curious coincidence of an attack on a man bearing the Mandela name at this time." But it did not suggest that it had any evidence of a political motivation for the incident. Monde Mandela is the grandson of Nelson Mandela's uncle.

Two months of factional fighting between the ANC and its rival, the Inkatha Freedom Party, have claimed 760 lives in Johannesburg-area townships. The ANC has blamed those attacks on right-wing whites within government security forces.

But Monde Mandela's neighbors, interviewed Saturday, said they doubted that the incident was political. None even knew that their neighbor was related to the 72-year-old ANC leader.

The attack on Monde Mandela's house, on a dirt road in a crowded Soweto ghetto, began at 2:15 a.m., neighbors said. About five black men surrounded the house and began firing. One threw what appeared to be a hand grenade into the bedroom window, and Mandela tossed it out.

But two more grenades were thrown into the bedroom, and the Mandela family fled into an attached one-car garage as their house exploded.

At least two gunmen were waiting for them outside the garage. Monde's wife, Susan, 29, hid under the van with their daughter in her arms. But the men opened fire again. The girl died instantly. Her parents were hospitalized with gunshot wounds and severe burns.

The attackers fled, and no one has been arrested.

Monde Mandela ran a "spaza shop," or small general store, out of his home, neighbors said. Adelaide Mabophe, who has lived next door to the Mandelas for 13 years, said the attack may have been related to the spaza shop business.

"I think some people may have been jealous because this man has a good business," Mabophe said. "He was just a somebody. So nice. He always played with the children."

"I don't think it's got anything to do with politics," added Monde's brother-in-law, Bakuyisa Mthikulu. "Monde wasn't political himself."

The home, part of a complex of one-story houses, was gutted by the fire, and later Saturday relatives pulled soot-stained clothing and shop merchandise from the home. Beside a mound of ruined clothes was a record album, entitled: "It's a Little More Like Heaven."

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