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Wins U.S. Asylum, Vows To Continue Fighting Apartheid

January 27, 1986

NEW YORK (AP) _ A black South African activist who won a five-year battle for political asylum in the United States said Monday he will continue fighting apartheid, ″which for too long has attempted to crush out the life and will of my people.″

Thembekile Enoch Xiphu was first threatened with deportation in 1981 when his student visa ran out, despite his claim that he would be jailed or killed if he returned to South Africa.

″At one time, it appeared that the United States government would deport me back to South Africa, which would have signed my death warrant,″ Xiphu said at a news conference at the headquarters of the United Church of Christ.

Xiphu, 31, had been a member of the South African Students Organization and had demonstrated in Port Elizabeth during the Soweto uprisings of 1976. He said he was jailed and tortured by the South African Security Police for his efforts to improve science education for black students and for his anti- apartheid work.

He said the Security Police stuck pins under his fingernails, beat him with a rubber hose that had a coiled spring inside, and once hung him out a 10th- floor window by his legs.

After being jailed for two months in South Africa, Xiphu spent six months in a United Nations refugee camp, and came to the United States as a scholarship student at Howard University in Washington, D.C. When his student visa expired in 1981, Xiphu applied for political asylum.

The Immigration and Naturalization Service denied his request on two grounds, said Raymond B. Penn, district director of the INS in Baltimore.

″First of all, we professed that because he was issued a travel document by the country of Botswana, he should therefore return to Botswana,″ Penn said in a telephone interview Monday. The other reason was there were some ″inaccuracies that were presented to the United States consulate when he first applied for a visa.″

Penn declined to specify the alleged inaccuracies, but said, ″Basically, we feel he misrepresented himself as to his reasons for wanting to come to the United States.″

According to Penn, the INS never wanted to send Xiphu to South Africa, merely back to Botswana where ″he had been firmly resettled as a refugee outside South Africa.″

Xiphu said Botswana had refused to take him back.

The case was decided Jan. 15 in Baltimore’s Immigration Court, when Judge John Gossart granted political asylum. The INS has no plans to appeal, Penn said.

The Lincoln Congregational Temple of the United Church of Christ in Washington declared itself a sanctuary for Xiphu last summer, and the church provided the financial and legal aid that enabled him to win his court case.

The Rev. Benjamin E. Lewis, pastor of the Lincoln Congregational Temple, credited the church with saving Xiphu’s life.

″He had to fight his deportation, through hearings, through public support, and it was the embracing of him by the church that really stopped him from being deported,″ Lewis said at the news conference. ″If he had been deported back to South Africa, he would not be alive. He would be dead.″

Xiphu vowed to continue to fight apartheid by ″attending conferences addressing schools in this country, and raising funds for our projects in southern Africa, and contributing in any way ... to the liberation of my people and our country.″

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