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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume. 34, Number 12. June 16, 1971

'Committee for Clemency' formed in South Africa

'Committee for Clemency' formed in South Africa.

The Celebrations planned for the tenth anniversary of the Republic of South Africa include an amnesty for prisoners, and within South Africa itself, one interesting response to these plans has been the formation of a "Committee for Clemency', which is now urging that the amnesty be extended to include political prisoners as well.

The convenor of the committee is Newalal Ramgobin, a Durban businessman, who was himself 'banned' at one time, and whose wife is the granddaughter of Mahatma Gandhi. Mr Ramgobin has toured South Africa, addressing the student bodies of a number of universities, to put the case for clemency.

In a statement in support of the clemency campaign, Mrs Helen Suzman, the Progressive Party MP, distinguished between four classes of political prisoners.

First of all, there are those serving prison sentences under security laws. The South African Government announced in January that there are 808 of these in all—769 Africans, 15 Asians, 14 Whites and 10 Coloured people. (The number at present detailed without trial under the Terrorism Act is undisclosed.)

About 280 men and women are under 'banning orders', and 35 of these are under "house arrest'.

Over 30 Africans have been banished to remote reserves under the Native Administration Act of 1927 - one man has now been banished for 21 years, and his wife, who is with him, for 17.

The fourth class of prisoners consists of those who have served prison sentences, but who, on their release, were not allowed to return to their homes, and were sent instead to 'resettlement camps'.

Tony Klew, chairman of the social welfare section of the National Union of South African Students, said:

"We believe clemency should be shown to those banned, exiled, imprisoned, many of whom have never been found guilty of any offence, but who have been arbitrarily victimised by the Government for their sincere belief that the present system is wrong."

The amnesty at the time of the fifth anniversary of the republic in 1966 applied to criminal prisoners only, and prisoners opposed to the present regime in South Africa have consistently been excluded from amnesties in the past. Nevertheless, the Committee for Clemency feels that there is a precedent in the case of Robey Leibbrandt, the Nazi agent who was landed from a German yacht on the coast of South Africa during the war, with ten thousand dollars and instructions to make contact with Nazi sympathisers within te country. Leibbrandt was granted an amnesty in 1948, soon after the Nationalist Government came to power.

Among other people who have come out in support of the clemency campaign are the Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Durban and the President-Elect of the Methodist Church of South Africa; the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cape Town, the professor of law at the Universit of Natal, and other university lecturers; the leader of the South African Labour Party: the writers, Andre Brink, Adam Small and Nadine Gordimer; the president of the Durban Chamber of Commerce; the director of the South African Institute of Race Relations; and Dr Christian Barnard, the heart surgeon.

Jean Middleton