- Created: Thursday, 07 February 2019 14:35
- Written by FRFI
Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! no. 16, February 1982
News reached Red Lion Setters of Steven Kitson’s arrest at about 4pm on Thursday afternoon, 7 January. Norma Kitson, together with those working at Red Lion Setters and other friends of the family, immediately decided to make maximum publicity about the arrest in order to secure Steven’s release.
Telephone numbers of the press, political organisations, influential politicians were gathered together and a massive phoning operation began. The South African Embassy in London was phoned and information about the arrest was demanded. Every journalist contacted was additionally asked to ring the South African Embassy, not simply to get information, but primarily to make it clear that the news was out and the arrest was causing public concern.
The prime consideration at this stage was to create widespread publicity. Members of the RCG and supporters of Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! played a central part in this work from the beginning. We all realised that only publicity offered a possibility of protecting Steven Kitson from the worst excesses suffered by prisoners of the racist South African regime.
This work continued on Friday and Saturday. AUEW/TASS and SATIS (South Africa – the Imprisoned Society) called a picket for the following Monday. Pressure was put on the British Foreign Office to take action, and was successful in that Steven Kitson was granted a consular visit on the Saturday.
After his visit the British consul told the South African press that Steven was ‘physically healthy’, but he reported to the family that Steven was ‘dispirited and depressed as can be expected’. This was a rather complacent remark considering that it was later revealed that Steven had been interrogated non-stop for 24 hours, been maltreated and mentally tortured in solitary confinement. The consul had also interviewed Steven in the presence of his interrogators and was clearly aware of these facts. It was in the next 24 hours, we now know, that Steven broke down under interrogation and told them the little information he had – the names of people he thought might he ANC members.
On Friday and Saturday the South African government began putting out press statements implicating Steven in a serious and bizarre charge of attempting to ‘contrive the escape of convicted terrorists from the new prison in Pretoria’. The orders to do this, it was said, came from ‘certain persons’ overseas. A further 4 people were detained after Steven, one of whom was the brother of Tim Jenkin, a political prisoner who had escaped from Pretoria gaol in 1979. General Geldenhuys, Commissioner of the South African police, issued a statement which said they had reason to believe that these ‘certain persons’ overseas directing Mr Kitson, were also involved in the escape of the three political prisoners from Pretoria gaol in 1979.
Steven Kitson was being framed by the South African police for a supposed escape attempt in order to cover up their real reason for arresting and torturing him. Steven’s father, David Kitson, is a political prisoner in South Africa and Steven is the only member of the immediate family who is able to visit him, and then only once a year. The South Africans knew that David Kitson, and Steven’s mother Norma, would know that Steven was being tortured because they had been detained and tortured by the South African police themselves – all detainees in South Africa are tortured. They would know also that the South African police were quite capable of framing Steven for a serious charge carrying a long prison sentence.
We were very concerned that Steven might be forced to make statements which could be incriminating whilst being tortured.
We also knew it was very important to counter the misleading reports in the South African press that Steven was ‘physically healthy’. We knew that this was a cover-up. Brutal regimes throughout the world have known for a long time that you can torture prisoners without leaving a mark on their bodies. The British have often used mental torture on political prisoners – in Ireland it is used as a method of interrogation.
At this point the workers at Red Lion Setters, FRFI supporters and the Kitson family decided to call a meeting for Sunday to form the Free Steven Kitson Campaign. A campaign had to be built to protect Steven whilst in custody and ensure his release. A leaflet was drafted. The workers at Red Lion Setters agreed to take on the main posts, and an RCG member agreed to be secretary of the campaign.
30 people were invited to the first meeting and many more offered their support. Sponsors included the family and friends of Steven Kitson, Red Lion Setters, AUEW-TASS, SATIS, AAM, RCG – Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism!, CPGB, the Labour Party, Tony Benn MP, TGWU, NALGO, NUPE, NGA and the National Union of Students.
On Monday a 250-strong picket of the South African Embassy took place. The slogans shouted expressed the political standpoint of the campaign – ‘Free Steven Kitson – Smash the Apartheid State’. Labour MPs, including Tony Benn, were present on the picket. Tony Benn made an important political statement to the press, in which he said that ‘South Africa is a police state’. He pointed out that the British economy is closely interconnected with the South African economy and ‘that not sufficient attention is paid in Britain to the many detentions in South Africa. A great deal of publicity is given to events in Poland but very little is heard here of the trade unionists and others who have been detained without trial in South Africa.’
Just before the picket, Amandla Kitson – Steven’s sister – went on an AUEW/TASS delegation to the Foreign Office. The pressure was now building up.
On Tuesday morning, the Free Steven Kitson Campaign held its first press conference. Most of the press were present. Interviews with Norma Kitson were appearing on BBC, ITV, BBC radio and LBC news. Great stress was continually being placed on the responsibility of the British press to publicise this case as much as possible, to protect not only Steven Kitson, but David Kitson and other political prisoners in South African gaols suffering similar and much worse treatment.
On Tuesday afternoon the sensational news of Steven Kitson’s release came when Joan Weinberg – Steven’s aunt – phoned Norma. The campaign had achieved a great victory. The following morning members of the Free Steven Kitson Campaign went to Heathrow to welcome Steven home. Another Press Conference was held and Steven told the British people of his horrifying ordeal.
The joy at his release was to be very short-lived. That evening the news of Joan Weinberg’s murder was released. The South African regime had taken its revenge. It drove home to those involved that there will be no joy for the South African people until the racist South African state is overthrown.
FREE ALL PRISONERS OF WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA
David Kitson is one of 530 long term political prisoners in South Africa. 500 of them are blacks held separately from the whites on Robben Island – a small barren island guarding the approach to Cape Town harbour from which only one person has ever managed to escape. Being hundreds of miles from their families, and due to the persecution which visitors receive from the racist South African police, prisoners receive on average one visit every two years. In the prison they do such work as rock breaking and clearing seaweed. They are fed on thin maize meal and given only mats to sleep on. The prisoners include leaders of the ANC and uMkhonto we Sizwe (Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu, Govan Mbeki and others), leaders of the black consciousness movement, the PAC and some of the fifty Namibian prisoners on Robben Island (eg Herman Andimba Toivo ya Toivo). Mandela is one of those serving life imprisonment, which means until death. When a ‘life’ prisoner dies he is buried in the prison grounds. There is no remission for South African political prisoners. Since 1978 the prisoners have had no study facilities as it was ruled in court that prisoners have no rights only privileges. They have no access to newspapers or radio.
South Africa has, per head of population, the highest level of imprisonment in the world (its nearest rival is the Six Counties of Ireland). Between mid-1977 and mid-1978 509,000 people were imprisoned in South Africa, mostly for infringements of the apartheid laws – pass laws, influx control, documentation control and trespassing. In consequence, some South African prisons are overcrowded by more than 200%.
More than 100 people a year are hanged (114 mid-1980 to mid-1981). At present the ANC are campaigning to save the lives of six ANC members sentenced to hanging. Many more die in police custody. Their deaths are normally attributed to ‘suicide’. Steve Biko (the then honorary president of the Black People’s Convention) was murdered in 1977. His death was attributed by South African ‘Minister of Justice’ J Kruger to a seven day hunger strike. In the face of widespread opposition this lie was withdrawn. Another example is the death in 1981 of another political detainee – Sifundile Matalasi. In their evidence to the inquest the police stated that Matalasi ‘joined his pair of socks, tied them round his neck, tying the other end to the window. He then lay down on the floor, covering himself with a blanket, using the left arm to exert pressure and thus died of strangulation’. The court held that no one was responsible for his death. Furthermore prisoners are tortured by the use of beatings, sensory deprivation, electric shocks (which leave no marks) – sometimes for weeks on end.
In spite of this repression and vile brutality, resistance increases both inside and outside prison. The ANC are leading a campaign to win POW status for their captured fighters. Prisoners’ protests inside have won minor concessions. This is accompanied by an escalation of their struggle to overthrow the racist apartheid state. In this they are urged on by their leaders in prison. A message from Nelson Mandela was smuggled out of Robben Island in 1980. It is entitled ‘Unite! Mobilise! Fight On!’ and declared:
‘Between the anvil of united mass action and the hammer of the armed struggle we shall crush apartheid and white minority racist rule.’
It is this unbreakable determination and courage which guarantees the victory of the ANC. FRFI pledges its full support for the captured freedom fighters of South Africa.
Victory to the ANC!
POW status for all South African political prisoners!
STEVEN KITSON’S STATEMENT TO THE PRESS ON THE DAY OF HIS RELEASE
I’ve been through a horrifying experience and I’m confused and tired.
I go to South Africa every year to visit my Dad – he comes out in ‘84 – and it was my aim to see him every year until his release and then help him. When I went out there this year I visited him a number of times and I also took some photographs of the outside of the prison. I did this so that my children could see what it was like to visit my father in gaol. Also while I was waiting for the warder to come and get me one visit – I had with me a notebook and pen, to write down what my father says – I was very bored and I made a sketch of the outside of the prison.
Because of these I was arrested on Thursday afternoon and taken to the Compol building in Pretoria.
The first thing that happened was they gave me a medical examination. I was terrified about this knowing how my mother and father were both mentally and physically tortured during their interrogations. This implied that they were going to be treating me very vigorously as well.
For the next 24 hours I can only describe my treatment as physical maltreatment and mental torture.
There was continuous interrogation 24 hours, for most of which I had to remain in a standing erect position away from any wall or support. After 24 hours I was allowed a rest of half an hour on a bunk bed and then interrogation continued until supper time on Friday.
During the evening of Thursday, in order to keep me awake, I was told repeatedly that I had to remain awake and asked questions all the time. To keep me awake my face was slapped and I was vigorously shaken around.
At one stage the slapping got quite bad, so that my nose started to bleed, and the interrogator said to the other one that he had gone a bit too far and they paused and wiped my nose until it stopped bleeding.
And again, once he shook me so vigorously that my head hit the wall. Again he said to the other interrogator that he had gone too far.
So it was obvious that they didn’t want to leave me with any marks or in a position where I could say I had been physically tortured.
Also to keep me awake they threw cold water all over me liberally. In the morning I was in a pretty sorry state and I had a whole bucket thrown over me.
To describe the mental torture would take longer but it basically consisted of a great number of threats. When the second interrogation team took over in the morning they threatened, if I didn’t stand erect, instead of using cold water they would use boiling water.
They also said they were the ‘nice’ interrogators and there were plenty of worse ones around who would really bugger me up – beat me up.
They made it quite plain that it was very likely I would be in this state without sleep and stand vertically for a period of weeks. Also they indicated that I would be in detention for a limitless length of time and mentioned that my father had already been inside for 17 years and that my prison sentence would far outreach that.
The subject of the interrogation was that they claimed the photographs and sketches were part of a plot to get people inside the jail to escape – so much so that they just assumed this plot was present and demanded to know who was involved in this so-called plot and its details.
They took my notebook which I take to see my father and demanded to know intimate details of every person’s name and address and whether they were involved at all.
On Friday evening I was put into solitary in Pretoria Central police station. The cell was a 15-20 feet cube with a fence of jail bars round the door, with another door in the fence. The small window was high up and covered in wire netting, and a toilet screened by a brick wall.
I was in total isolation except for occasionally hearing the screams of other black prisoners being beaten up.
The only really heartening thing at this stage was that other prisoners, especially those detained under section 6 of the Terrorism Act, had written on the walls things like: ‘Don’t fear, don’t worry, you will soon get out’.
As an aside, I think this is quite amazing. Many of these people having been caught trying to go across the border to get training, savagely beaten up – all of them. Some of them hanged presumably, the rest of them on Robben Island. They were writing to someone they would never meet: ‘Don’t worry, you’ll be OK’. I took great heart by this.
As I remember the cell now, lying down on the bed, if I look past my feet I see two bricks with the words ‘Don’t worry’ on them. My only worry now is that this is all a dream and I will wake up and past my feet I will see those two words again.
After the solitary confinement, the next morning, the previous pattern stopped and I was interrogated daily and in the evening sent back to solitary. The next day, I am not quite sure which day it was, the British consul visited me in prison.
Obviously he couldn’t do much, but at this stage I was very relieved to hear of the press interest and the enormous interest people were holding in my case. This was very important to me indeed, because the whole purpose of the interrogation was to isolate me and get me to talk and crack. It heartened me a great deal that people were interested in my case.
During this second pattern of daily interrogation and nightly solitary there was also a change in the attitude of the interrogators, in that they stopped physical threats and stopped physical maltreatment and just continued with straightforward interrogation and threats.
The physical maltreatment stopped, but the mental torture continued. Looking back, I am convinced that this was because of all the fuss that was made by people outside. It was plain that at no stage did they want to leave me with physical marks or in any way I would say I had been physically manhandled.
What they were trying to do during the second stage was to get me to tell them information about my mother’s activities in the ANC, to get me to tell them what little I knew.
I didn’t want to tell them this, but on about the fourth day I broke and cried and mentioned names of two people I thought were involved.
During the whole procedure they said that according to the Act they had detained me under, I would only be released once I had provided them with an explanation of my actions which would satisfy the Commissioner of Police.
I told them that I had told the truth about the photographs and the sketch and they were not part of any plot whatsoever. But they didn't believe it. The truth and the statement to the Commissioner of Police wouldn’t tally. They indicated that if this continued I would just remain there for ever.
One of the most important things about the whole business is not only what happened to me but also to tell you what I saw and heard. Because it is my view that is really the truth about South Africa today.
On my second night in solitary, I saw a man being admitted to the cells after being beaten up. Later on I heard him being savagely beaten again. He was very badly beaten, until finally his screams were like those of a three-year-old child. It was one of the most horrifying sounds I have ever heard.
Then the night before last, seven or eight people were being processed into the gaol, all of them under Section 6 of the Terrorism Act. I think all of them were beaten up.
The thing I did see was the smallest of them who must have been no more than a boy, about 15 or 16. I was waiting in the lift to be taken up to my cell and I saw a warder smash this child across the face and kick his legs from underneath him so he fell very heavily on the concrete floor.
Without hardly any warning yesterday, I was released and taken to the airport and put on a plane.
I would like to thank people. I’m quite sure that my treatment was quite different to those normally detained in South Africa because of the pressure that was brought to bear on my case. So I would like to thank the press because I think their role in this was important. I don’t think that I can ever thank the Campaign Committee enough for what they did. It is thanks to them that I am here now. And thanks to all friends and other people who have concerned themselves with my case.
My concern always has been with my father and unfortunately the goal I had to be there when he was released will now never now be realised. I don’t think I can ever return to South Africa in the present situation and I certainly don’t think my sister should go either.
Steven Kitson, 25, a Rolls Royce Engineer was arrested at 4pm on 7 January after visiting his father David Kitson, a political prisoner in South Africa serving 20 years imprisonment for being an active member of the African National Congress.
David Kitson was 16 years old, when in 1935 he joined the Communist Party of South Africa. He became dedicated to the struggle for liberation in South Africa. At his trial he said of that period:
‘As I grew up and came to think for myself, it became difficult for me to reconcile the oppression of the Blacks here with the philosophical outlook of the Western civilisation we whites purport to defend. Clearly the situation was contrary to the Christian tradition in which I had been reared. I came to accept the Marxist standpoint that mankind can only achieve its complete liberation with the achievement of communism.’
Below we print an interview with Norma Kitson which gives the background to David’s arrest and imprisonment.
FRFI: Although both you and David Kitson are South African, you met David Kitson in England in the 1950s. He won a trade union scholarship to Ruskin College, Oxford. Can you tell us about his experiences there?
Norma Kitson: While he was there he fought for the College to devote itself to training militant people for the labour movement. He could see that people who left Ruskin at the end of their courses were either becoming personnel managers and those type of jobs, or they were going on to further study and becoming academics. He thought this was defeating the main aim for which Ruskin was formed. He thought they should go back onto the shop floor, better armed as workers to fight the capitalist system.
FRFI: David Kitson spent 2 years at Ruskin, what did he do after leaving Ruskin?
Norma Kitson: He got a job at BOC as a design draughtsman. He came up for promotion and was invited into his boss’s office. At the time he was the shop steward of the union Draughtsman’s and Allied Technicians Association which later became AUEW/TASS. He was told that in order to get the promotion he would have to resign as shop steward. He refused. He had no hesitation, he had no doubt about which side he was on. So he was sacked. Then he tried to get other jobs in the engineering industry but he was blacklisted. There was a lot of unemployment and the Union was weak then. Steven, our son was 18 months old so I couldn’t work full time.
FRFI: You returned to South Africa in 1959 and David joined the ANC. What was the situation in South Africa at that time?
Norma Kitson: There were increasing and mounting attacks of brutality. All peaceful demonstrations were met with violence. There were mass removals to Bantustans. They were implementing the Tomlinson Report, which was the master plan of apartheid. There were many incidents which culminated in Sharpeville, which was a peaceful demonstration against the pass laws. When people saw the police with guns they turned to run away, and 67 people were shot dead, most in the back, and hundreds were injured. It was a turning point. It showed the tremendous resistance that was there. David wanted to play a role in this resistance.
Up until 1961 there had been a policy of peaceful resistance in South Africa, because the leaders of the South African resistance had tried through every means in their power to negotiate a peaceful settlement. There came a time when they had no choice but to defend themselves. After a lot of discussion in the movement, the ANC formed the military wing, uMkhonto we Sizwe. They decided to fight back.
FRFI: David was arrested in 1964. What was the background to this arrest?
Norma Kitson: Over decades the policy of the South African regime had been to imprison or kill leaders of all the movements of resistance. In 1963 Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu, and some of the other leaders of the ANC were brought to trial, the Rivonia Trial. They were sentenced to life imprisonment on Robben Island. David was a member of the Technical High Command of the military wing and he formed part of the committee after these arrests.
David was arrested in June 1964 and the charges against him were the same as for the leaders arrested at Rivonia. Those arrested with him were Wilton Mkwayi, ANC leader [sentenced to life], Mac Maharaj [12 years imprisonment], Laloo Chiba [18 years], John Matthews [15 years].
FRFI: What happened to David when he was arrested and detained?
Norma Kitson: I came home one day to find the house full of plain clothes police and Dave was very white but jokey. They wouldn’t tell me where they were taking him, they just took him away.
I contacted the newspapers and they said that the usual place where people were taken was Marshall Square. In South Africa relatives have to take in a meal every day to detainees. So I took David’s meal down to Marshall Square. The next day I took another meal down and the other one was returned untouched.
In the middle of that night I got an anonymous phone call from a man who said he had seen David at the Greys – the Johannesburg interrogation centre. David was being questioned, he had had cold water thrown over him and had been made to stand for 36 hours. He said that David was in a very bad way.
So the next morning I rushed out and bought four tomatoes and went to the Greys, which is a heavily guarded building. I said that I was Lieutenant Venter’s wife (Venter is a very common name in South Africa) and that he had been interrogating ‘these terrorists’ for hours and that I thought he needed something to eat. They escorted me up to either the sixth or seventh floor, I don’t remember which. They let me out of the lift. There were a lot of doors so I went to one and opened it and I had a glimpse of a black man sitting on the edge of a brown wooden desk, covered in blood. I quickly closed the door and opened the door on my left. I saw David for seconds, standing looking dreadful, then the door was slammed on me. Two security policemen then escorted me out of the building.
FRFI: Dave was held initially for 90 days, what happened during this period?
Norma Kitson: We weren’t allowed to visit and he wasn’t allowed access to a lawyer and exactly a month after his arrest, on 22 July I was arrested and put in solitary confinement for 28 days. After the 90 days detention David was just redetained, he was never released. We had no access to him. I was taking in his meals and taking his washing away and getting some blood stained and ripped clothing back to wash. I was desperate.
After his eighteenth day in solitary confinement I went and stood on the City Hall steps, which was illegal in South Africa, with my children, pleading to the South African people and trying to get a response from the authorities to either release or charge him if they had evidence against him. It was a very desperate time. By then 800 people had been put in detention, 800 that they admitted. After his second period of detention he was charged and then the trial started.
Most of the trial was held in camera. All the evidence was verbal and given by detainees who had been held in detention themselves. In a proper court of law this wouldn’t have been admissible. On the first day of the case, Mac Maharaj stood up and told the judge that he had been tortured, that he had had a nail knocked through his penis and that he’d had his eye injured. Judge Boshof just said that’s not a matter for this court and the case continued.
The men were wonderful. The five of them wore red ties. They were terribly brave and they all looked pale and ill but they had tremendous spirit. They came into the court almost as if they were winning a battle, not on trial for their lives. When one witness was brought in on a stretcher the judge made the case in camera and excluded us from the court, except on the final day of sentence. David’s comment on the trial, after being sentenced, to 20 years was,
‘Perhaps I may consider it a personal misfortune that it had to be me, but I had my turn at enjoying myself overseas, and am proud to contribute my part to the inescapable struggle through which the South African people are going.’
And a press cutting from that period said,
‘With shouts of “Amandla Ngwethu” and “Mayibuye” as they gave clenched-fist and thumbs-up salutes, the five men found to have been members of the “National High Command” and to have conspired with the Rivonia Trialists and others to bring about violent revolution, were taken from the Rand Supreme Court this morning to serve prison sentences ranging from life imprisonment to 12 years.’
FRFI: What were the conditions in which he was held immediately after sentence?
Norma Kitson: We knew that he was still in solitary which is illegal. We also knew that the political prisoners were not given copies of the prison regulations to which they were entitled, to know their rights. But we didn’t know anything else. We had one visit of 20 minutes and one letter of 300 words every six months.
Initially the white prisoners were held at Pretoria Central Gaol. They had a huge impact on the other prisoners. They started classes in Marxism. They stopped prisoners grassing on one another as they built up comradeship. They stopped the whole tobacco trading system which was iniquitous.
FRFI: Soon after they moved the political prisoners?
Norma Kitson: Yes, they built a special maximum security gaol called Pretoria Local, where the political prisoners were separated from the others.
FRFI: In 1966 you left South Africa and came to England, because of harassment of you and your children by the state. Did you ever return to visit Dave?
Norma Kitson: Yes, I did whenever I could. On one occasion when I went back I was stopped and taken for interrogation to Compol. I said I would not go on a voluntary basis so they pulled out a gun and said you are going on a voluntary basis. I was allowed to make a phone call and they told me what to say. I had to say that I was quite all right, and that I was being taken to make a voluntary statement.
They hung me out of the window from the seventh floor of Compol building Pretoria. Swanepoel, known as the beast of Compol, threatened me with a gun. That didn’t actually frighten me because when they hung me out of the window I thought I was going to die. One of my best friends died that way. Swanepoel boasted to me when I was in solitary confinement that he had thrown him out of the window. There is a photograph of (Babla) Suliman Saloojee’s body on the ground with Swanepoel standing over it grinning.
But when they threatened to run the children over, I made a statement. They weren’t really interested in my statement, what they wanted me to do was to give them information when I got to London. I just got on the next plane and got out of South Africa. I reported everything that had happened to me to my movement. I rejoined the ANC openly and became active.
FRFI: How is David today and what are the current conditions in which he is being held?
Norma Kitson: In 1979, 3 of the political prisoners escaped and the other white political prisoners were transferred to the section for the Criminally Insane in the Maximum Security wing of Pretoria Central gaol, the hanging gaol. There are over 100 people a year hanged in South Africa, a murder record! It’s a very bad section, it’s the worst section of the gaol. Over the past winter they have kept David without heating and hot water. He was too cold to leave his cell and he got severe bronchitis. We fear very much for the conditions under which he’s being kept, but we have very little knowledge other than that.
FRFI: What’s the significance of the arrest of Steven and the murder of your sister Joan Weinberg given that David still has three years of imprisonment to face?
Norma Kitson: I think that over all the years they’ve tried to get David to renounce his politics. They’ve never managed to shift him in any way. I think they are very angry that after all this time and after all they have done to him, they’ve never managed to break him. They’ve decided on an onslaught in this period. They kept him without heat, then they delayed my letters for three months, which kept him out of contact with me. Then they arrested his son.
They did it at a very special moment just before the last visit, because prisoners always save the emotional content for the last visit. They arrested Steven just before that. And then they told David about Steven’s arrest. I think that one way you can really unsettle someone is to do something to their children. Steven got out and the next day my sister was murdered. My sister was David’s contact over the 15 years since I left South Africa. She was the person who visited him every month, and arranged for the other visits. Neither myself, Mandla nor Steven can now visit him. Every single contact has been broken. All we can expect are sporadic visitors. We won’t be able to see how he is.
FRFI: The vigorous protest about Steven’s detention and torture succeeded in getting his release very quickly. What can be done in this country to free David Kitson?
Norma Kitson: I think we can free David Kitson if ordinary people mobilise and keep the campaign going. I think we can get him released, but more important than that, it raises the whole issue of prisoners of war in South Africa. If there was an election in South Africa tomorrow then you’d find that the majority of the legitimate government is in gaol on Robben Island. So a campaign to free David Kitson can be seen as part of the effort to build support in Britain for the struggle of the African National Congress for a free democratic South Africa.
Joan Alison Weinberg, my aunt, was brutally murdered by the South African fascist regime on Wednesday 13 January. Only hours after my brother’s release was secured by the Free Steven Kitson Campaign, my father’s link with the outside world was murdered.
There is no doubt that my brother’s detention and torture was linked to the murder of my aunt. They were both part of the latest series of sadistic manoeuvres to isolate and demoralise my father, David Kitson who was sentenced to 20 years incarceration for being a member of the ANC.
The problem for the South African regime is the cover-up. First they tried to brush it off by implying that my aunt had committed suicide. They said she was slumped over a blood-filled bath and that her wrists were slashed. However, only hours before her murder she had been overjoyed at the news of my brother’s release. My mother has a tape of her phoning the ‘wonderful news’ through to London. She also saw my brother off at Jan Smuts Airport, and he describes her mood as ecstatic.
The following report said her wrists were damaged, her jaw was broken, that some of her teeth had been knocked out, that she had other severe head injuries, and that it was being treated as a murder inquiry. Later the police said that an imminent arrest was expected. This arrest did not materialise. They were playing for time.
A pathology report promised on Monday 18 January said that the cause of death could not be established. Results were then promised on 25 January but no report was available. No doubt the regime is preparing a frame-up or cover-up. They, with the aid of the South African press, have published a smear campaign.
My aunt was a very special person. With the dog eat dog philosophy of decadent white South Africa, she stood out as an especially moral and caring woman. She was not ‘politically’ motivated, but she stood by my family when most other friends and relations shrank from this responsibility. She cared for both my mother and my father during their detentions. For the fifteen years while my mother, brother and I have been exiled in Britain, she was the person who kept regular contact with my Dad. She visited him every month, and arranged for somebody else to see him on the second monthly visit which he is allowed. She even looked after my Dad’s father after my Grandmother died. The times when Steven and I stayed with her during our visits were particularly close and happy times. I could write endlessly of the things she did for us, and what we feel for her.