Posted on: 2008-08-26 17:15:20
The Media Review Network (MRN) has appealed to ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe to help find out why two South African relief workers have been arrested and incarcerated in Uganda. "After numerous attempts by the family lawyer for information about the two men from the department of foreign affairs, diplomatic access was eventually secured from the Ugandan authorities. This took a week to process," MRN chairman Iqbal Jassat wrote in a letter to Mantashe on Tuesday.
The MRN was "troubled and anxious" at how long it had taken the department to get information about citizens in a foreign country, even though it had a High Commissioner in Kampala, he added. "Unfortunately, this has led to a perceived lack of interest as well as negative speculation vis-à-vis the department of foreign affairs. "As a desperate measure the family had to obtain the services of legal counsel in Kampala to assist them," Jassat said.
Mufti Hussain Bhayat, of Lenasia, and Haroon Saley, of Azaadville, were detained last week during a stopover at Entebbe International Airport, in Kampala, and are being held at the offices of Uganda’s joint security. On Monday, the two relief workers were still undergoing questioning and had not had any charges put to them. South Africa’s High Commissioner Henry Chiliza was able to visit them on Monday. After speaking to Chiliza on Tuesday, Mamoepa said there were "no new developments at this stage".
Two Ugandans arrested with the South Africans have since been released. Uganda’s New Vision online newspaper reported that they were taken in by a joint anti-terrorism task force on suspicion of being involved in terrorist activities. The Muslim Judicial Council has expressed concerned that they may be the subjects of Islamophobic profiling in an international anti-terror crackdown.
The MRN said Saley was born in Wolmaranstad and attended the Klerksdorp Primary and Nirvana Secondary schools. He married in 1978 and went into business in 1995 manufacturing hairdressing aprons and capes. Bhayat was born in Ermelo and attended the Ermelo Primary and Waterval Secondary schools going on the Waterval Institute, where he became Hafez of the Quran, and the Newtown Madressa, in Karachi, where he became aalim. After marrying in 1976, he taught in Klerksdorp, Laudium and Azaadville. He has four children, runs a shop in Kliptown and has a number of certificates for his humanitarian work.
"Both gentlemen represent a charitable organisation, The Crescent of Hope, and have been involved in relief work on the continent and at home for many years," wrote Jassat. In his letter to Mantashe, he said the MRN believed they should be charged if evidence was found about their alleged terrorist activities. "If not then the department, through its High Commissioner, should assist in securing their immediate release so that they are able to return to their home and their loved ones.
"The anger and frustration of the Muslim community at this stereotyping and religious profiling is quite understandable. The Muslim community would be deeply grateful to the African National Congress if you could add your voice to their call for the unconditional release of the two men." Jassat said the "aggravation and annoyance" of "such arbitrary arrests and harassment" impeded the progress of the humanitarian efforts carried out by Saley and Bhayat and their organisation.
"Your public support for the efforts of these organisations to alleviate poverty and hunger on our continent will also be highly appreciated," he said. The MRN has described the men’s visit as a fact-finding mission to investigate the possibility of acceding to Kenyan requests for relief and to look at the chances of relief work in Uganda in response to requests for assistance. SAPA
(Voice of the Cape)
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