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UA 75/91 - South Africa: Death threats: Mzamo Mathe

, N° d'index: AFR 53/010/1991

EXTERNAL (for general distribution) AI Index: AFR 53/10/91
Distr: UA/SC
UA 75/91 Death Threats 28 February 1991
SOUTH AFRICA: Mzamo MATHE, human rights activist
Amnesty International is concerned for the safety of a human rights activist, Reverend
Mzamo Phumzile Mathe, who has received repeated death threats. The most recent one
was on 26 February 1991, when the caller said that he would be the next victim following
the murder of a political activist, Chief Mhlabunzima Maphumulo, who was shot dead
outside his home on 25 February. Reverend Mathe is the organizing secretary of the
Northern Natal Council of Churches, Ladysmith, where he has been involved in assisting
communities threatened with dispossession of their homes and land as a consequence
of the continuing operation of apartheid laws. He has also been active in establishing
"crisis committees" in Ladysmith and nearby towns to act as mediators in the violent
political conflict which has been occurring in Natal province since 1987.
On 26 February Reverend Mathe received a telephone call in his office from a
man who referred to the killing of Chief Maphumulo and said: "You will be the next
one", before putting down the receiver. During 1990 he had received a number of
threatening phone calls including threats of death. On 22 March 1990 he reported
these calls to the police. He continued to receive these calls, however. The police
told his lawyer on 30 July 1990 that the case was being "investigated in detail but
that at present there are no likely suspects."
Amnesty International views such threats with concern because in other cases
they have been followed by violent attacks against or the murder of the threatened
person. It believes that the threats are intended to keep human rights activists
from engaging in their lawful activities on behalf of the underprivileged and the
victims of human rights violations. Amnesty International urges the South African
government to take prompt and appropriate measures to guarantee the safety of human
rights activists subjected to such threats, including Reverend Mathe, and to
demonstrate its unequivocal opposition to such threats being made by bringing the
perpetrators to justice.
In Natal province where Reverend Mathe is based, more than 4,000 people have been
killed since 1987 during intense political conflict between members and supporters
of the now unbanned African National Congress (ANC) and the conservative KwaZulu
"homeland"-based organization, the Inkatha Freedom Party. The conflict has been
exacerbated by the actions of the security forces, some sections of which have colluded
with Inkatha members in violent attacks on communities and individuals, and by the
failure of the authorities to investigate and bring to justice those responsible for
killings and other abuses. Victims in this conflict have included people with high
political profile, such as Chief Maphumulo, who was President of the ANC-aligned
Congress of Traditional Leaders of South Africa (CONTRALESA) and initiated the
establishment of an unofficial commission of inquiry into the Natal violence in 1989.
In early 1990 Chief Maphumulo's Table Mountain community outside Pietermaritizburg
came under attack from armed Inkatha supporters, with the active support of the police,
according to affadavits later accepted by a court. He had received many death threats
and had survived several attempts on his life. At the end of 1990 CONTRALESA members
requested the government to investigate the source of a "hit-list" which included
Chief Maphumulo's name. No response had been received from the government at the
time of his assassination. Just after 8pm on 25 February 1991 he was fatally shot
in the back of the head outside his Pietermaritzburg home. Another CONTRALESA member,
Chief Mcomdanza Mpungose, was shot dead three hours earlier on the same day in the
Waschbank area of northen Natal. The conflict has also claimed the lives of human
rights activists, such as Reverend Victor Africander, chairperson of the
Pietermaritzburg Council of Churches, who was shot dead on 4 May 1990. His name, as
well as that of other clergy, was on a hit-list later published. There are fears
that individual assassinations rather than large-scale attacks on whole communities
may represent the new trend in the conflict in Natal, in the aftermath of the January
1991 "peace talks" between ANC Deputy President Nelson Mandela and the KwaZulu
"homeland" leader, Chief Gatsha Buthelezi.
RECOMMENDED ACTION: Telegrams/telexes/faxes/express and airmail letters:
- expressing concern for the safety of Reverend Mzamo Mathe following repeated anonymous
telephone calls, most recently on 26 February 1991, threatening him with death;
- noting that when death threats have been made in the past, they have been followed
by violent attacks against or the killing of the threatened person;
- asking that an immediate investigation be conducted into the threats to bring those
responsible for them to justice;
- urging that all necessary steps be taken to ensure Reverend Mathe's safety.
Mr F W De Klerk
State President
State President's Office
Private Bag X83
Pretoria 0001, South Africa
Telegrams: President De Klerk, Pretoria, South Africa
Telexes: 321695 SPLIB SA, 321890 PRES SA or 322158 PRES SA
Faxes: +27 12 323 3982
Mr A J Vlok
Minister of Law and Order
Private Bag X463
Pretoria 0001, South Africa
Telegrams: Minister Law/Order, Pretoria, South Africa
Telexes: 321353 HABS SA or 321358 HABS SA
Faxes: +27 12 322 2559
Lt-Gen J van der Merwe
Commissioner of Police
Police Headquarters
Private Bag X94
Pretoria 0001, South Africa
Telegrams: Police Commissioner Van de Merwe, Pretoria, South Africa
Telexes: 3-20772 SAPQM SA; 3-20838 SAPOB SA
Faxes: + 27 12 323 2033
Maj-Gen J C van Niekerk
Regional Commissioner of Police
Natal E Region
P O Box 391
Durban 4000, South Africa
Telegrams: Natal Regional Police Commissioner, Durban, South Africa
COPIES to one or more of the following:
- The Editor, The Natal Witness, Box 1634 Durban 4000, South Africa
- The Editor, The New African, Suite 206 Dinvir Centre, 123 Field Street, Durban 4001,
South Africa
- The Northern Natal Regional Council of Churches, P O Box 190 Ladysmith, South Africa
- Pietermaritzburg Agency for Christian Social Awareness (PACSA), PO Box 2338,
Pietermaritzburg 3200
- The Black Sash Repression Monitoring Group, Ecumenical Centre, 20 St Andrews St.,
Durban 4001
and to diplomatic representatives of South Africa in your country.
PLEASE SEND APPEALS IMMEDIATELY. Check with the International Secretariat, or your
section office, if sending appeals after 11 April 1991.

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