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Friday, 10 May 1985
Page: 1751


Senator AULICH —I address my question to the Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs. I refer to the deaths in custody of two more black South African citizens, Sipho Mutsi and Andries Raditsela. I refer, further, to the post-mortem finding that one died as a result of a blow to the head whilst held in custody. Is the Government concerned that a strong Australian stand against South Africa's apartheid policy is being weakened by the actions of some Opposition members accepting free airline tickets and other enticements from the South African Government? Is the Government concerned about the activities of the pro-South African lobby aimed at destroying the bipartisan approach to South Africa that has been a feature of this Government's and the former Liberal Government's foreign policies?


Senator GARETH EVANS —The Government is aware of the deaths of two black South Africans in police custody in recent days. According to reports, Mr Andries Raditsela, an official of the Chemical Workers Industrial Union and Vice-Chairman in the Transvaal region of the Federation of South African Trade Unions, was detained on 4 May following his release from police custody. Mr Sipho Mutsi, a member of the Congress of South African Students, is also reported to have died in hospital on 5 May while in police custody. The South African Police Commissioner has ordered an immediate inquiry into these deaths. An independent pathologist is reported to have said that Mutsi's death was due to a 'haemorrhage in the head'. The circumstances of these two deaths of black South Africans in or immediately after their release from police custody have provoked strong and perfectly understandable criticism from trade union, academic, political and church leaders in South Africa.

The Government is not at this stage in a position to confirm whether the deaths occurred as a result of injuries sustained whilst in police custody. Were it to be established that these deaths took place in police custody, the Government would, of course, deplore this situation in the strongest terms. We are appalled that the deaths of these two people are so tragically reminiscent of the death in detention of the black consciousness leader, Steve Biko, in 1977. The latest incidents can serve only to increase tensions and anger within South Africa and undermine the sincerity of the South African Government's claims to be seeking political and constitutional reforms for black South Africans.

I am not aware whether there are members of the Opposition accepting free trips to South Africa. It would be entirely consistent with the stance taken in public by a number of members of the Opposition were that to be so. I exempt, of course, from any suggestion of criticism people such as Senator Missen, who paid for his own fare in order to examine at first hand what is happening there, and also the Opposition Foreign Affairs spokesman, Mr Macphee, who, I gather, much to the disgust of some of his colleagues, is also proposing to visit South Africa at his own expense to make some informed judgments about the situation there. Our position on South Africa is perfectly clear. We regard the apartheid policies of the South African Government with nothing short of contempt. We firmly believe that now is not the time to relax international pressure against the apartheid regime.