The government on Friday announced amnesty for 1,833 exiles and people accused of political crimes, including nine activists charged in a controversial case that strained government-ANC relations.
Those given amnesty also include five right-wing extremists associated with right-wing leader Piet Rudolph, who was freed from prison Monday after 40 political prisoners were given amnesty.The latest announcement followed harsh criticism from the African National Congress. The ANC said Monday, after the earlier amnesties were announced, that the government was not moving quickly enough to free political prisoners. It said ANC-government talks could be derailed if all were not out of jail by April 30.
None of those affected by Friday's announcement is currently in prison. Of the total, 1,819 were exiles who were members of the African National Congress or its paramilitary wing; nine were anti-apartheid activists facing trial in South Africa; and five were right-wing extremists.
The anti-apartheid activists include Mac Maharaj, a former member of the ANC's National Executive Committee and Communist Party leader. Maharaj and eight others were arrested in July in an alleged Communist plot to overthrow the government.
After the arrests, the government pressured ANC leader Nelson Mandela to exclude Communist Party leader Joe Slovo from ANC-government talks. Mandela refused.
In August, the ANC suspended its armed struggle and cited this as a reason the government should drop its case against the nine.
Maharaj and the other defendants were freed on bail in November, and all nine were granted amnesty Friday.
Justice Minister Kobie Coetsee announced the amnesties in Parliament on Friday evening.