48 Political Prisoners Freed in South Africa
President Frederik W. de Klerk freed 48 political prisoners Saturday in his latest effort aimed at improving the climate for black-white political negotiations.
In an announcement Thursday, De Klerk had promised the releases and lifted the four-year-old national state of emergency in three of South Africa’s four provinces.
The African National Congress, the country’s leading opposition group, welcomed the move but said that more than 3,000 activists remain imprisoned for politically motivated acts.
“We are happy to be released,” said Jeffrey Radebe. “But our happiness is not complete today when we think of all the comrades we left behind.”
Radebe, like most of the activists released Saturday, belongs to the ANC. Several were convicted in some of the country’s most highly publicized terrorism and treason trials in recent years.
Maj. Dave Smith, a spokesmen for the Prisons Service, said 28 inmates were released from the Robben Island Prison off Cape Town and 20 more were freed from other prisons.
One of the released men, Stephen Nkosi, said he thought the 48 were freed as a publicity move to “undercut” the current international tour by ANC leader Nelson Mandela.
Mandela is on a six-week tour of Europe, North America and Africa to urge foreign governments to maintain economic sanctions against South Africa to protest apartheid.