The Mandelas Land in Divorce Court

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JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA: President Nelson Mandela told a divorce court today what had been rumored for years -- that wife Winnie Mandela had cheated on him during his 27-year imprisonment. On the first day of the divorce proceedings, the leader of the African National Congress told the packed courtroom that he had wished to resolve his marital problems in the privacy of their bedroom, "honorably and quietly, without washing our dirty linen in public." But Mandela said that since his release from prison, his wife had never even entered his bedroom while he was awake. Winnie Mandela has refused her husband's efforts to end their marriage amicably, and insists that they meet with tribal leaders in an attempt to reconcile. "She's resisting because she is who she is," says TIME's Peter Hawthorne. "Winnie Mandela does not give up on anything without a fight." Mandela said he could never reconcile with his wife after seeing a love letter she had written to Dali Mpofu, her attorney in her 1992 kidnapping trial. When she was convicted later that year, the Mandelas separated. Nelson told the court that that he is determined to end the marriage, and said there has be no intimacy in their marriage since he returned to live with his wife in 1990. "I was the loneliest man during the period I stayed with her." The marriage may have been troubled for decades. "Today Mandela suggested that he was having marital problems even before going to jail," says Hawthorne. After testifying, Mandela shook hands with his 60-year-old wife, who is reportedly seeking a $5 million settlement. "At this point Winnie has probably realized that the marriage is over," says Hawthorne. "She's just trying to get as much as she can out of it."