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South African Fugitive Arrested

January 20, 1999

PRETORIA, South Africa (AP) _ Police have arrested South Africa’s most wanted fugitive, a former African National Congress militant whose escape was a major embarrassment for the authorities.

Colin Chauke was captured Tuesday night in Nelspruit, 200 miles east of Pretoria, the capital, police said today. During a brief court appearance, he was ordered detained until a June 1 hearing.

Authorities said he would be held in a maximum security jail. ``We will not take any chances,″ said prison spokesman Rudi Potgieter.

Chauke, 30, was arrested in Pretoria in October 1997 in connection with the stealing of $210,000 from a cash depot.

He escaped from a Pretoria jail two months later after holding a prison guard hostage with a gun.

Chauke had been a member of Spear of the Nation, the armed wing of the now-governing ANC before it won power in the nation’s first all-race election in 1994.

President Nelson Mandela relayed his congratulations to the police today, saying Chauke’s capture showed the authorities’ determination to arrest criminals ``whatever assistance they may get from others.″

Right-wing, mainly white political opponents of the ANC have sought to link Chauke with the ruling party. The Freedom Front said it hoped Chauke would provide information on alleged involvement in crime by ANC members.

``If indications are confirmed that (Spear of the Nation) members are continuing to make the country ungovernable through crime, the ANC would have to accept full responsibility,″ Freedom Front spokesman Kallie Kriel said.