But the ANC cannot lose Winnie Mandela's constituency, either. More than half of the ANC's 700,000 members are in the youth league, and dumping her could drive them into more radical groups, such as the Pan-Africanist Congress and the Azanian People's Organization.
"She may not be an angel," added Mpofu, her deputy, "but you cannot ignore reality. She has support." (Mpofu reportedly has been intimately involved with Winnie Mandela for several years. He says the accusations are "rubbish" and that they are just close friends.)
Winnie Mandela's supporters don't pay much attention to the controversy swirling around her. The white government has tried to silence and discredit her for three decades. Why, they ask, should it be any different today?
She was convicted last year on charges of kidnaping and assaulting four young men in the rooms behind her home in 1988. She denied any involvement, and her co-defendants supported her.
But in recent weeks, those co-defendants have gone to the newspapers with accusations that she played a direct role in the beatings, including the death of 14-year-old Stompie Seipei, and may have ordered the killing of a Soweto doctor a few days after he reportedly examined Seipei.
Her separation from Nelson Mandela after 33 years of marriage, announced by the stoical leader April 13, seemed to be an insurmountable blow to Winnie Mandela's political career.
But Nelson Mandela, who took the painful step at the encouragement of other ANC leaders, took care not to criticize her. He said his love for her remained "undiminished," and he lauded her long anti-apartheid efforts as a credit to the struggle for black liberation.
Close friends of the couple say Mandela, who is 17 years older than his wife, remains deeply grateful to her for the courageous battles she fought against the state during his 27 years in prison. And despite the many rumors of her infidelities, they say he still has affection for her.
Mandela says she remains committed to the ANC and the anti-apartheid struggle but that she's resigned to having enemies inside and outside the ANC.
Her most vocal critics have included ANC supporters, among them the Weekly Mail newspaper.
Under the headline "End of a Myth," Weekly Mail writer Gavin Evans recently argued that Winnie Mandela's power and national stature were a myth created by foreign governments and local and foreign journalists enamored with her husband's name. Winnie Mandela, Evans wrote, was nothing more than "a tough campaigner blessed with huge doses of physical courage but with no political discipline, a penchant for violence, a total incapacity to learn from her own mistakes and, frankly, a considerable capacity for evil."
In fact, Winnie Mandela is a complex, stridently independent woman, say those who know her best. Her friends say her personality was shaped by those early encounters with the enforcers of apartheid.
They arrested her dozens of times, kept her in solitary confinement for 18 months, banned her from speaking to groups or reporters and banished her to the dusty township of Brandfort in an effort to silence her.
By her own estimation, the authorities turned this "little countryside girl from the backveld" into a tough, streetwise political operative who learned how to hate. And she did give the government fits.
But the attention she received, and the supplication she encountered among blacks, also built a towering ego and a lack of respect for all authority, even that in the anti-apartheid movement itself.
Nelson Mandela's release from prison in February, 1990, put a temporary end to his wife's political activity. But she soon grew impatient with her husband's moderate views and returned to the fray, to the dismay of many ANC leaders.
"She's always gone where the fires were burning," Mpofu said. "Inevitably, a straightforward personality like hers is going to trample on people's toes."