Six South African black anti-apartheid activists ended their sit-in at the British Embassy today after just over 24 hours, complaining bitterly that diplomats had urged them to leave.
The five men and a woman had entered the embassy Wednesday to protest restrictions placed by Pretoria on former detainees like themselves.
“It is deplorable and regrettable that the British Embassy did not give us proper sanctuary,” one of the six told reporters outside the mission.
The six said in a statement they had been denied food, water and blankets. They described the attitude of the embassy as inhumane and extremely negative.
They said they had chosen to stage their protest in the embassy because they knew the British government had condemned detention without trial under South Africa’s 33-month-old emergency regulations.
“We have grave doubts about the sincerity of the British government because of the treatment meted out to us,” the statement said.
The group was confined to the embassy’s entrance hall, could not use the embassy toilets and had to get food brought from outside. The embassy said that the six were free to leave the embassy at any stage to gain access to their lawyers and to buy food.
The British Embassy’s tough line against the six contrasted sharply with other diplomatic missions in South Africa that have given refuge to activists seeking sanctuary from arbitrary arrest.
A seventh activist, Simon Ntombela, escaped from custody in the port city of Durban on Wednesday and is staying at the U.S. Consulate in Johannesburg.