By John Carey
A SOUTH African Church worker who has just been released from prison is taking legal action against the police. He claims he was tortured during his five-month detention.
Mr Alex Mbatha says that the torture was administered during an interrogation session shortly after his arrest last November: a hood was placed over his head, he was stripped naked, beaten and given electric shock, he alleges.
A writ for damages has been handed to the police officer alleged to be responsible. Mr Mbatha and his wife, Khosie, were arrested at the same time last year. They were released three weeks ago after the authorities had failed to produce any evidence against them. Mrs Mbatha suffered a heart attack while in prison and is understood to be still paralysied
down one side.
Mr Mbatha is a field development worker employed by the bishops conference: his wife has been actively involved in social work in the township. A vigorous campaign for their release was mounted by international organisations including the Catholic Fund for Overseas Development (CA FOD) and Oxfam in Britain.
Meanwhile, the authorities have served a second banning order on Fr Smangaliso Mkhatshwa, the first black secretary general of the South African bishops' conference.
The latest order, which lasts for three years, was served on him last Friday, the day his previous five-year banning order expired. The terms are the same as before: they restrict him to the Pretoria magisterial district which includes the parish of Soshanguva, where his church of St Charles Lwanga is situated. He is also prevented from having any visitors at home.
Fr Mkhatshwa has twice been detained in prison. News of the latest moves against him reached the South African bishops as they were preparing to leave Rome after visiting the Pope.
Earlier the Pope had praised their efforts to promote "a just and peaceful solution to the problems of Namibia".