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Hunger Strikers Close to Death, Doctors Warn With AM-South Africa-Violence

May 20, 1991

CAPE TOWN, South Africa (AP) _ Six political prisoners entering the fourth week of a hunger strike to demand their release could die if they do not eat soon, doctors warned Monday.

″We cannot be complacent. The situation is serious for the hunger strikers,″ professor Solly Benatar of the University of Cape Town’s Medical School, who is in charge of their care, told a news conference.

The six African National Congress members, part of a group of 190 hunger- striking prisoners nationwide, began refusing food May 1. They are taking only water with glucose and have refused vitamins.

The six, who are serving sentences for anti-government activity, accuse Johannesburg of reneging on an agreement with the ANC to free political prisoners by April 30. Hundreds have been freed, but the two sides disagree over classifying political prisoners.

The independent Human Rights Commission says there are 1,800 political prisoners still incacerated.

Roy Keeton, medical director of Somerset Hospital, where the six inmates are being held, said he has told prison officials he would not take responsibility for their fate.

″It is a very difficult situation, they are at the point where tissue damage is irreversable,″ he said.

Some of the men are manacled to their hospital beds, said Dr. Francois Majoos, a physician treating them.

One of the men, Chris Mofokeng was unable to talk and shook so much that he could not drink a glass of water, his sister, Christine, told the news conference.

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