Three Prominent Detainees Released; Ailing Prisoner Still Held
JOHANNESBURG, South Africa (AP) _ Three prominent black activists detained without charge for more than a year were released today with severe restrictions placed on their activities.
Also, lawyers said the government has refused to release a long-time African National Congress member who is reported to be terminally ill with a neurological disorder. Harry Gwala, who is in his 60s, has spent more than 20 years in prison and is serving a life sentence for his involvement with the ANC, the main black group attempting to overthrow the white-led government.
One of the men released, Trevor Manuel is the most senior figure in the Cape Town area for the United Democratic Front. He had been detained since August 1986.
The UDF, the nation’s largest anti-apartheid group, is made up of more than 600 church, social and political organizations.
The coalition was one of 17 opposition groups that the government in February banned from functioning, and virtually all its leaders are in detention, in hiding or under restrictions.
Manuel, 32, is one of the highest-ranking UDF members to be released from detention during the 25-month-old state of emergency.
Also released were Ibrahim Rasool and Martin Qumbela, members of the UDF’s Western Cape excutive committee.
The three have been placed under restrictions that ban them from participating in UDF activities, talking to journalists or criticizing the government. They also must be in their homes at night and are not allowed to leave their hometowns.
An estimated 30,000 people have been detained without charge for varying periods since the government imposed a nationwide state of emergency in June 1986.
Lawyers for Gwala said their client was dying from a neurological disorder with no known cure.
″Medical opinion indicates that in all probability (Gwala) will die in a couple of years or death could come sooner,″ the lawyers said.
Justice Minister Kobie Coetsee refused the attorneys’ plea that Gwala be freed. However, Coetsee noted that Gwala had been moved to a prison hospital in the port city of Durban from nearby Pietermaritzburg ″to facilitate his medical condition.″
Gwala was sentenced to eight years’ imprisonment in 1964 following a conviction for sabotage. He was released in 1972 but arrested again in 1975 and detained for two years. In 1977, he was sentenced to life in prison for involvement with the ANC.