Man Jailed in South Africa Turmoil Returns to S.D.

Times Staff Writer

A joyful but weary Scott Daugherty--who a week ago was jailed by South African security forces as part of a government-imposed national state of emergency--stepped off an airplane in San Diego late Saturday night and was promptly greeted by an enthusiastic crowd of friends and relatives.

“I experienced a lot more than I ever thought I could,” said Daugherty, a 19-year-old San Diegan who was among 250 people arrested last Sunday when police broke up a prayer meeting at a church in a Cape Town suburb.

Daugherty was one of four Americans detained in the wake of a state of emergency, called to coincide with the 10th anniversary of the Soweto township uprising.

Despite his ordeal, Daugherty said he would return “as soon as they give me a visa.” Daugherty, who was interviewed by about a dozen reporters at the Lindbergh Field, was wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with the words “UDF (United Democratic Front) unites, apartheid divides.”


He said his experience led him to the conclusion that the government in South Africa is “as brutal as any government I could think of.”

Overall, Daugherty said he was treated well in prison, where he was confined to a small single cell and interrogated three times by South African security forces.

“They wanted to know about my history in the states . . . and what I was doing in South Africa,” he recounted. He was told by authorities that he could not talk to the U.S. Consulate until the state of emergency was lifted, and then he would be put on trial.

Although he was arrested at a church service, Daugherty was told he would be charged with the illegal distribution of leaflets, an accusation he said was untrue.


During the arrest at the church, police armed with lead-tipped pointed sticks descended on the congregation. Daugherty said many people attempted to run away but that a minister told people to “get down on our knees and . . . pray.” He said it appeared that there were no injuries at the church. He described the worship service as “the most unpolitical church service” he had been to during his stay in South Africa.

Janet Daugherty of La Mesa said earlier Saturday that she had talked to her son after his release from Pollsmoor Prison on Wednesday.

“He said he was in good shape but that he didn’t like prison food and he was hungry.” But he wasn’t free to discuss his jail experience on the phone.

Daugherty left Johannesburg on Friday, traveling to Rome and then to New York, where he boarded the American Airlines flight that brought him home.


“I think he’s going to be pretty tired,” his mother said. “I was hoping to have him catch up with his sleep most of today.”

A service celebrating Daugherty’s return is scheduled for 7 p.m. today at St. David’s Episcopal Church in Clairemont.

It was through the help of parishioners from the church and his family that Daugherty was able to raise the money for his trip.

He arrived in South Africa on April 17, going there because he wanted to help the victims of apartheid, according to one of Daugherty’s friends, the Rev. Bill Mahedy, Episcopal chaplain at San Diego State University and UC San Diego.


“Scott is a very lovely young man with a very deep social conscience,” Mahedy told The Times last Monday, after Daugherty’s arrest became known. “He is also a man with a strong religious spirituality.