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Report: ANC Tortured Dissidents In Exile Camps

August 14, 1992

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa (AP) _ An African National Congress inquiry into charges that its officers tortured dissidents has uncovered ″shocking abuses,″ a respected newspaper reported Friday.

The Weekly Mail said it learned from unidentified sources that the probe into alleged abuses at ANC camps outside South Africa put much of the blame on former ANC security chief Mzwai Piliso.

″ANC’s torture chief named,″ ran the newspaper’s front-page headline. The anti-apartheid Weekly Mail is widely seen as South Africa’s leading investigative paper and has uncovered stories embarrassing to the government and black groups.

The ANC, which ordered the unfinished inquiry earlier this year, would not comment on The Weekly Mail report. Some African National Congress officials have said dissidents who challenged the organization were undercover government agents, but at least one said injustices were committed because fear of spies got out of hand.

″The ANC’s inquiry into the treatment of detainees in its camps in exile has uncovered evidence of shocking abuses,″ the newspaper said.

One account carried in the Weekly Mail report came from Patrick Hlongwane, a former ANC dissident, who said he had been tortured and beaten in ANC camps while held prisoner in the 1980s.

″My left hand was put in boiling tar and I was burned with hot tea. There were times when I was punished with no water or food for three days,″ he was quoted as saying.

The ANC, South Africa’s largest black political organization, admits there were executions and human rights abuses when the group operated in exile between 1960 and 1990. But it claims the abuses were halted and all prisoners released in 1991.

Critics, including released dissidents, maintain the abuses have not ended.

Amnesty International and other human rights groups are also probing allegations that the ANC security wing mistreated scores of ANC members in camps outside South Africa.

″Very serious abuses took place,″ Richard Carver of Amnesty International told The Associated Press in a recent interview.

Amnesty International says there is evidence people were held after the ANC said all prisoners had been released. It wants the Red Cross to visit ANC camps to see if people are still held.

The ANC is especially sensitive over the claims because its charges of South African government brutality and abuses have been a major weapon in the struggle against apartheid.

Under growing pressure to account for ANC behavior, the black group’s president, Nelson Mandela, earlier this year ordered an investigation into allegations of human rights abuses at ANC camps. The investigative committee is preparing its report.

The alleged abuses took place in the 1980s in camps in other African nations before the South African government legalized the ANC in 1990. The black group was fighting underground against the South African government at the time.

Piliso, now head of ANC human resources, was ″directly implicated in some of the assaults on prisoners″ who challenged the organization, the article said. He was cited in the report as saying he was following instructions.

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