Political activists seek refuge in the British Consulate in Durban

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Thursday, 13 September 1984

Six political refugees,  Archie Gumede, the president of the United Democratic Front (UDF), Mewa Ramgobin, George Sewpersahd, M.J. Naidoo, Billy Nair and Paul David sought refuge in the British consulate in Durban and asked the British government to intervene on their behalf. This left the British government in a difficult position. It could not expel the men into the hands of the police, but it sat with an embarrassing use of their consulate. They did everything in their power to persuade the men to leave voluntarily and did not hesitate to resort to harsh measures. In October 1984 Ramgobin, Sewpersadh and Naidoo decided to leave the consulate, but were arrested immediately, while Gumede, David and Nair left the consulate on 13 December. All, except Nair, together with a number of other activists, were charged with treason. After a lengthy trial in the Pietermaritzburg Supreme Court, known as the Pietermaritzburg Treason Trial, all charges were eventually withdrawn.

In a move similar to this three UDF leaders, Murphy Morobe (Publicity Secretary), Valli Moosa (General Secretary), and Vusi Khanyile (National Education Crisis Committee), fled to the consulate of the United States in Johannesburg on 13 September 1988 after escaping from the Johannesburg Prison.

References:
• Kalley, J.A.; Schoeman, E. & Andor, L.E. (eds) (1999). Southern African Political History: a chronology of key political events from independence to mid-1997, Westport: Greenwood.
•  sahistory,' United democratic front ',[online],Available at www.sahistory.ac.za [Accessed: 12 September 2013]

Last updated : 12-Sep-2013

This article was produced for South African History Online on 16-Mar-2011