Thursday, May 29, 2014

Activists Say South Africa Political Prisoners Need United States Support

From Page six of an article in the Philadelphia Tribune on Friday, October 20th, 1978.

Editor's Note: I was a reporter for the Philadelphia Tribune at the time and used the name ``Trace Gibson'' as my Mother, Mrs. Jessie Mae Thornton Gibson wanted me to.
I was only about 22 and fresh out of college at the time, so please forgive the rough nature of the writing here.  I want to thank Godfrey Sithole an area representative of the African National Congress for researching this article for me.

Activist Say South African Political Prisoners Need U.S. Support

By Trace Gibson

(Now known as Brother Tracy Gibson)

There are thousands of political prisoners in South Africa and many are tortured and killed according to Indaes Naidoo, South African political activist who spoke Saturday, October 14th at the Church of the Advocate, 18th and Diamond Sts., during a forum on the subject sponsored by the African National Congress.
Naidoo, a member of the African National Congress of South Africa, addressed a small group on the problem of political prisoners n South Africa.
Born in South Africa Naidoo now lives n Mozambique, where he is involved in the South African liberation efforts.

He came to the United States to address the October 10 meeting of the United Nations Special Committee Against Apartheid. The day was dedicated to political prisoners by South Africans involved in the liberation efforts. Naidoo said He spent 10 years on Robben Island, a stronghold for South African political prisoners, where he was tortured and saw mistreatment of many of his ``comrades.''

The African National Congress was formed in 1912, Naidoo said, and began the struggle against the South African government which upholds apartheid, or a system of forced segregation of the races with Blacks and coloreds (persons of mixed blood) receiving few benefits on the society which benefits heavily from their labor.

First, using peaceful measures, such as protests and sit-ins, the group met with violent reprisals by the government and began to use violent means of resistance, Naidoo said.

``We decided with a very heavy heart to take up arms (in 1961) against the South African regime. We were forced to take up arms because all other avenues were closed to us,'' Naidoo said.

``We had one of two choices,'' he continued, ``either to give up the fight or fight--we decided to fight.''

Reviewing his arrest and torture by the South African police, Naidoo said he and two others were uninvolved in acts of sabotage against the South African government.

``The regime successfully infiltrated an agent into our group; we did not know he was supplying information to the government. On the 17th of April, 1963, we went on an act of sabotage; we blew up a tool shed and a railway signal post,;; taking special precautions that no train was tor run there at the time of the explosion, he said.

As Naidoo and his colleagues were lighting the dynamite to blow up the area,  ``The whole place lit up and we heard police whistles. We ran and, in the course of running, we saw that we were surrounded by between 20 and 30 heavily armed police,'' he said.

Naidoo said he was shot, beaten and arrested, taken to police headquarters and tortured with electric shock and other brutal means.

Two days later, he and his comrades were taken to court ``blood-stained and beaten. Even the magistrate was horrified at the way we appeared in court.''

The five prisoners were treated by physicians the next day. They were then sentenced to 10 years in prison, but while they were on trial the 90-day law was put into effect by the South African parliament. The 90-day law allows the government to detain persons idenfinitely Naidoo said. This law was used to re-arrest two others who had been involved with sabotage even though they had been discharged by the government.

``The South African regime has admitted to 52 deaths in detention, (over the last 10 years) but there is really double, if not triple, that number,;; Naidoo said, adding that 50 percent of all executions in the world take place in South Africa.

The speaker then went over a list of 44 people who had died in detention in South Africa since 1963. Various reasons such as ``natural causes,'' ``suicide by hanging,'' ``falling out of seventh-floor windows,'' ``falling down a flight of steps,'' ``gunshot wounds,'' ``heart failure'' and ``suffocation'' are given as reasons for the death by the government but Naidoo said many prisoners were killed by government police and prison guards.

At the conclusion of his speech Naidoo pleaded with the audience to protest against the treatment of prisoners in South Africa by boycotting multinational corporations that have holdings in South Africa.

He also stated his displeasure with the way resident Carter and the U.N. Ambassador Andrew Young are dealing with the issue of human rights. Naidoo said the U.S. administration ignores the human rights of political prisoners in South Africa.  

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