Statement Issued By GCIS: Briefing on the Case of Robert McBride - 21 May 1998

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What is the attitude of the South African government to Robert McBride's arrest?

The position of the government has not changed: McBride was not operating on behalf of government or any of its intelligence agencies. As far as we know, he had been on a private visit to Mozambique, the objective of which is not known to government. This matter is the precise subject of the investigation by Mozambican authorities.

South Africa unequivocally recognises the sovereignty of Mozambique, and we shall not interfere in the judicial processes in that country.

Has South Africa been involved in the investigations by the Mozambique authorities; and what is the attitude of government to the content of the docket, which, it is alleged, is based on the so-called Meiring Report?

Through the South African Police Service, and at the invitation of the Mozambican authorities, our law-enforcement agencies have been assisting in the investigation. In this process, we have drawn to their attention the relevant information at our disposal, including STATEMENTS THAT HAVE BEEN MADE regarding the so-called Meiring Report and with respect to the findings of the Mohammed Commission.

This, we believe constitutes a part of the pool of information that the Mozambican judicial authorities will take into account in coming to a determination on their own future course of action.

Is South Africa satisfied with progress in the investigations, and the conditions under which McBride is being held?

The Mozambican authorities are conducting the investigation in accordance with their own laws; and we are hopeful that the case will come to a resolution soon - based on their own independent findings. As a matter of principle, the South African government maintains that McBride, like anyone else, should be presumed innocent until proven otherwise.

The South African High Commissioner in Maputo has had contact with relevant structures in Mozambique regarding the conditions under which Robert McBride is being held. Through these structures, as well as in Safety and Security inter-ministerial discussion, we have been assured that he is being treated in accordance with common international practise. The government has always been ready to take up any representations to the contrary.

Has President Nelson Mandela met McBride's family, and what has the South African government done to assist them?

President Mandela has not met McBride's family. But McBride's wife has made representations to the President's Office.

The Minister of Safety and Security was directed to liaise with the family. In such interaction, the Minister has explained any issues that, in opinion of the family, warranted such clarification.

It should be emphasised though that the approach in these discussions is underpinned by the principle of not interfering in the Mozambican judicial process. As well, we want to ensure that government does not, and is not seen to, give any particular South African incarcerated in a foreign country, any preferential treatment. Each case is dealt with on the basis of its merits, and the relationship it may have to matters of state.

What is the attitude of the government to the campaign to free or charge McBride?

Government recognises the right of citizens to campaign on any issue of concern to them. The campaigners are within their rights to express their views on the progress of the case.

However, we hope that, in doing so, the campaigners will weigh the impact of their actions and statements on Robert McBride's interests.

Who should be contacted for clarification on these matters?

Details on the operational matters are being handled by the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Safety and Security.

However, it should be recognised that the matter is sub judice; and it is in the interest of neither Robert McBride nor the Governments of both countries for the sensitive issues pertaining to this case to be handle through public fora.

Issued by: Government Communications & Information System (GCIS) 21 May 1998 For further enquiries, contact:

Joel Netshitenzhe

Cell: 082-900-0083