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SOUTH AFRICA AMENDS ITS ONCE-DRACONIAN INTERNAL SECURITY BILL

The legislature Friday amended South Africa's once-draconian Internal Security and Intimidation Bill, limiting detention without trial, scrapping regulations on the press and tearing up lists of banned people.

Police now may detain suspects for no more than 10 days and must give them access to lawyers and doctors, unless senior officials consider this prejudicial to investigations, according to the amendment passed by the House of Assembly. Police formerly had unlimited detention powers.The maintenance of lists of names of persons regarded with suspicion by the state also was removed from powers under the act, as were "prohibitions on publications, restrictions on the registration of newspapers . . . (and) restrictions on public statements or writings of certain persons as well as the misdemeanour of furthering communism."

Only South Africa's right-wing Conservative Party opposed the amendments, mainly because it objected to the removal of Clause 55 of the law, which had prohibited activities and publications furthering the aims of communism.

Chris De Jager, a Conservative Party representative, said the party supported most of the bill but felt the spread of communism should be prevented by legislation.

Friday's amendments were a further step on the road President Frederik de Klerk embarked on early in 1990 when he released African National Congress leader Nelson Mandela and promised to remove apartheid from the statute book.

On Monday, the legislature repealed the Population Registration Act, which required everyone born in South Africa to register by race at birth, the last of the nation's five major race-based laws.

In promoting press freedom, de Klerk has effectively legitimized a state of affairs that has prevailed in South Africa since last year.

Changes in detention powers, however, move the government some way down the road to answering challenges from the ANC that the state security apparatus continues to work against the abolition of apartheid and that police are fundamentally biased.