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Insurance Company Executive Imprisoned For Refusing Army Service

April 14, 1989

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa (AP) _ A 28-year-old insurance executive who served with the army in Namibia was sentenced today to 18 months in prison for refusing to complete his military service.

Saul Batzofin is the fourth conscientious objector sent to prison in the past 13 months. Military service is mandatory for all able-bodied white men in South Africa.

Batzofin completed his initial two-year service in the army seven years ago, but last year he refused to report for a required call-up camp.

He said a major factor in his decision was his army service in the Ovambo region of northern Namibia, where South African troops were fighting black nationalist guerrillas.

The army ″does not act in the interests of the people of Namibia,″ Batzofin said in a statement prior to his trial. ″Residents of Ovamboland were treated with disrespect and contempt.″

He also said corpses of slain guerrillas were kicked and put on public display at army bases, then buried in shallow graves so that wild animals could dig up the bodies.

″My response as a young conscript to incidents of this type was an absolute horror and abhorrence of war in general,″ Batzofin said.

Fighting between guerrillas and security forces in Namibia flared up again April 1 at the start of U.N.-supervised transition period that is to end with territory becoming independent of South Africa.

Batzofin pleaded guilty, and his attorneys asked the presiding magistrate to sentence him to community service rather than prison.

But Magistrate P.H. Bredenkamp said today he had no option, because the law mandates a prison sentence for all draft resisters equal to 1 1/2 times the amount of service they still faced.

Batzofin’s company, Liberty Life, has pledged to let him return to his job as a career development officer when he gets out of jail.

Last year, David Bruce, 25, and Charles Bester, 18, were sentenced to six years in prison for refusing to enter the military. Dr. Ivan Toms, who ran a clinic in a black squatter camp, was sentenced to 21 months for refusing to report to a call-up camp.

Batzofin was a member of the End Conscription Campaign, a nationwide group opposed to mandatory military service that was banned by the government last year. The organization was critical of the army’s role in Namibia and also in black townships, where troops have been used to control anti-apartheid unrest.

In August, Batzofin and 142 other young men publicly stated that they would refuse military service.

Batzofin’s supporters in the courtroom showered him with yellow flowers as he was led away by wardens after the sentencing. The supporters lingered in the chamber and sang ″God Bless Africa″ - an anti-apartheid anthem - after the magistrate left.

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