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Six Activists Leave British After Protest of Restrictions

March 30, 1989

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa (AP) _ Six black activists left the British Embassy today, a day after encamping there to protest police restrictions on their activities. An escaped detaineee remained in the U.S. Consulate.

Almost as soon as the six activists arrived at the British Embassy in Pretoria on Wednesday, British officials made clear they disapproved of the protest and asked that the group leave.

The activists left today after having requested Britain to pressure the South African government to lift all restrictions on them and other former detainees. Foreign Minister R.F. Botha said the five men and one woman would not be arrested.

The embassy said the six would be able to make an effective protest to the government only if they ended their sit-in, and ″we therefore welcome their decision to leave.″

Anti-apartheid groups had complained about the embassy’s refusal to allow the six to use telephones and toilets in the building.

The National Union of Mineworkers, a militantly anti-apartheid black union, described Britain’s stance toward the activists as ″shocking and inhuman.″

″Denying them facilities necessary for human habitation confirms out long- held views that apartheid repression is fully supported by the British government for the realization of super profits accruing from their sanction- busting companies in South Africa,″ the union said in a statement.

Simon Ntombela, 27, was in the U.S. Consulate in a downtown Johannesburg office building, after escaping in his pajamas Wednesday from a hospital in Durban, 360 miles away. Ntombela reportedly took a commercial flight to Johannesburg.

The Human Rights Commission, a private group, said Ntombela was seeking the end of his detention, without restrictions, and unconditional freedom for all other detainees. The commission said Ntombela ended a hunger strike Wednesday.

Law and Order Minister Adriaan Vlok was scheduled to meet Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu and other anti-apartheid clergymen today to discuss the fate of scores of activists still detained under an emergency declared nearly three years ago to control uprisings in black communities.

Botha said Wednesday that the six would not be arrested if they left the embassy, although some had violated their restrictions. One of the six, labor official Donsie Khumalo, is barred from political activities, confined to his home at night and must report to a police station twice daily.

Botha said Ntombela’s case was being studied and a decision would be made about his possible release.

Ntombela was the eighth detainee to escape from a hospital since September. Three who took refuge in the U.S. Consulate in Johannesburg and four who reached the West German Embassy in Pretoria were later allowed by the government to go free.

An estimated 600 activists have gone on hunger strikes this year to protest their detention without trial.

The government announced Wednesday that it would now place hunger strikers in prison or in hospitals in Bloemfontein, a relatively remote provincial center, to prevent escapes and publicity about them.

Authorities have freed most detainees since the fasts began but has placed severe restrictions on their activities. Human rights sources say several hundred remain in detention, including more than 30 on hunger strikes.

An estimated 30,000 people have been detained for varying periods under the emergency declared in June 1986.

Under apartheid, the country’s 28 million blacks have no vote in national affairs. The 5 million whites control the economy and maintain separate districts, schools and health services.

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