3 S. Africa Detainees Flee to Refuge in U.S. Consulate : Won’t Be Forced to Get Out
Three of the most prominent anti-apartheid activists detained under state-of-emergency regulations escaped from a hospital today and took refuge in the U.S. Consulate.
The three men requested a meeting with U.S. Ambassador Edward Perkins.
Two of the men are senior officials of the banned United Democratic Front--Publicity Secretary Murphy Morobe, a black, and Acting Gen. Secretary Mohammed Valli Moosa, an Indian. The other is Vusi Khanyile, a black who was chairman of the banned National Education Crisis Committee.
Refuge in Consulate
The U.S. Embassy in Pretoria issued a statement confirming that the three had taken refuge in the consulate, on the 11th floor of an office building in downtown Johannesburg.
“We were in frequent contact with these three men prior to their detention without charge and hold them in high regard,” the statement said. “We will not press them to leave against their will.”
The statement said the United States does not offer asylum at its diplomatic offices, but it said these premises are inviolable under international law and may not be entered by the host government without consent.
The embassy said it was discussing the situation with the activists and the South African government.
Leon Mellet, a spokesman for the Law and Order Ministry, confirmed the incident and said the men escaped from Johannesburg General Hospital, where they had been receiving physiotherapy. No details of the escape were disclosed.
Previously, the three had been at Johannesburg’s Diepkloof Prison.
At the consulate, there was no visible sign of security force deployments. A private guard stood at the entrance while about two dozen journalists waited in the hall.
Morobe, 32, and Valli Moosa, 34, were detained in July, 1987, after working clandestinely for the front since a state of emergency was declared June 12, 1986. Khanyile, 37, was detained in December, 1986.
An estimated 30,000 people have been detained without charge for varying periods during the state of emergency. The government has not released comprehensive statistics, but it said recently that 802 people who had been held at least 30 days were still in custody.
Many of the detainees were members of organizations affiliated to the United Democratic Front, a nationwide coalition of more than 600 anti-apartheid groups.
Also detained were virtually all top leaders of the National Education Crisis Committee, a coalition of parent, teacher and student groups seeking to give blacks more control over curriculum and policies in their schools.
The committee was instrumental in calling off classroom boycotts that spread nationwide in 1985-86, but the government outlawed its subsequent campaign for “people’s education.”
The United Democratic Front and the crisis committee were among 17 anti-apartheid organizations banned in February from conducting any activities.
Twice in recent years, activists have taken refuge at diplomatic missions in South Africa. Six front leaders stayed at the British Consulate in Durban for several weeks in late 1984 before emerging to face arrest for high treason. The charges later were withdrawn.
In September, 1987, South Africa agreed to let a Dutchman, Klaus de Jonge, return to the Netherlands after he had holed up at a Dutch Embassy office in Pretoria for two years. De Jonge escaped into the office from police custody after being arrested for aiding the outlawed African National Congress guerrilla movement.