'There are no political prisoners'

Kingdom Mabuza

Kingdom Mabuza

Political parties that have members in prison for politically motivated crimes have rejected Justice Minister Brigitte Mabandla's assertion that "there are no political prisoners".

Mabandla told a media briefing on Tuesday that it was incorrect to regard any prisoner in South Africa as a political prisoner.

"We do not have what we term 'political prisoners' in our prisons. What we do have are people who were arrested for certain crimes during the unrest," Mabandla said.

The Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) said it was disappointed that Mabandla should claim that members of its armed wing, Apla, were in prison for criminal activities.

"We know that our members are still in jail for political reasons. Because they were refused amnesty, it does not mean that they qualify to be called criminals," said PAC spokesman Mudini Maivha.

Maivha said the attitude of Mabandla and the government to freedom fighters who sacrificed their lives for the new political order was hurtful.

The Inkatha Freedom Party's chief whip, Koos van der Merwe, said that prisoners aligned to his party would approach the court.

Dan Habedi, speaking for the Azanian People's Organisation (Azapo), said Mabandla's remarks would not help the situation.

"Her statement creates the wrong impression that there are no political prisoners, and yet there are Azapo members in jail," Habedi said.