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The world watched as Nelson Mandela was finally laid to rest in his hometown of Qunu following a dignified and moving funeral ceremony on Sunday.
Inside the Kine consulate
Why we did it - the first interview with one of the Kine fugitives.

One of the "Kine 3" yesterday gave dramatic details of his arrest, detention, escape and stay in the American consulate in Johannesburg - and the difficult decision to Ieave. In the first in depth interview given by the fugitives to - the press, United Democratic Front acting general secretary Mohammed Valli said the three men seriously considered going into exile rather than risk redetention in South Africa. He also said that jailed ANC leader Nelson Mandela had  "advised" rather than instructed them to leave the consulate. Valli, acting UDF publicity secretary Murphy Morobe and National Education Crisis Committee (NECC) official Vusi Khanyile yesterday left the consulate building after fleeing there from detention five weeks ago.

In the interview in Johannesburg Valli said he felt "disorientated, but tremendously relieved” to be free after more than a year in captivity. However he, Morobe and Khanyile were aware that by leaving the consulate, they were opening themselves up to tremendous risk. "We certainly fear that the government might take some action against us," he said. Valli's ordeal began when he was detained, with Morobe, in Port Elizabeth on July 22 last year. " At the time Valli, who had been released from detention in terms of a court order only three months earlier, was "keeping a low profile" while continuing with his political work. "After the arrest, I discovered that an instruction had gone out to every police station to look for us," he said. He is convinced that his and Morobe's detention - which lasted until their escape from Johannesburg Hospital on September 13 this year - was meant to "keep us off the streets" rather than for purposes of extracting information. "I was interrogated only for a total of about 30 minutes in Port Elizabeth, and once again very briefly after I was transferred to Johannesburg."

The three decided to attempt an escape "with the main aim of getting out of prison, and the secondary aim of highlighting the plight of detainees. We were convinced the police had no intention at all of releasing us." Valli said subsequent claims that their release had been imminent did not bear scrutiny. "I don't think anybody believes the government's claim," he said. "If that had been the case, a whole range of people in the same category as ourselves would have been freed." The government had only given undertakings that the activists would not be redetained because they "urgently needed to defuse the situation", added Valli. "They were very concerned about the publicity, and that harsh action on their part might influence the American public to support (Democratic presidential candidate Michael) Dukakis." The decision to escape was taken by the three alone, according to Valli, and not in consultation with the entire detainee population of Johannesburg prison, as has been reported. However, he said that after their escape, the three had received news from prison, not only in Johannesburg, that “there was jubilation among detainees that we had succeeded".

Valli declined to reveal specific details of the escape, but said the US consulate bad been chosen because the three needed refuge from a government that had real influence with Pretoria. "At the time of the escape we were convinced that if we left the consulate, we would either be restricted or redetained," he added. It was only after wide consultation that the "difficult decision" was taken to leave in the hope of resuming their political activities.

"We seriously considered other possibilities, particularly going into exile," said Valli. "But after consultation with people we work with, with Nelson Mandela and Govan Mbeki and with others who came to see us - including Archbishop Desmond Tutu (Frederik) Van Zyl Slabbert and (Wynand) Malan - we were convinced that we should stay in South Africa. "We requested Winnie Mandela to inform her husband of our situation and the choices we faced, the reasons we had escaped and what our intentions were. "He responded through his wife and his suggestions were in line with our own thinking - that it would he unwise to exile ourselves. It was felt that experienced leadership was needed at this time in South Africa. "Mandela's view was that our existence should be as open as possible."

Valli stressed, however, that Mandela had not "instructed" them to leave. "It's not in his nature to do that," he said. "We took many views into account. But we agreed with his belief that a prolonged stay in the consulate would not achieve much." Valli is still wary that the government might renege on its assurances that the three will not be redetained. He is not certain whether he will resume his previous political role. "The scenario has changed a great deal."  

However, Valli says extra-parliamentary political groups have always had to adapt to changing conditions. "I don't think it will be a fundamental shift from the basic UDF approach," to unite the broadest possible opposition to apartheid. This objective can be pursued in a range of legal ways, not all of them necessarily under the UDF banner." 

This article originally appeared in the Weekly Mail.