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South African women on hunger strike

Cape Town - Eleven South African women held in a Mauritian jail on drug charges have been on a hunger strike for two weeks, a member of Families of South African Detainees Abroad said on Friday.

Teressa Phewa said the women, some of whom had been held without trial for more than three years, were demanding that their cases be dealt with by the Mauritian authorities.

"They can't even plan their future, they don't know what is going on in their lives," she said. "They will carry on the strike until somebody comes and tells them the way forward."

Pewa said the women were in jail in the town of Beau Bassin, where she herself was held for three and a half years on drug charges before being freed in December last year without being brought to trial.

She said when the women phoned her this week to tell her they were on hunger strike, they also said they had been involved in a fight with a group of Mauritian women prisoners who beat up a South African girl.

"I've been there, it's not safe. If you are a foreigner, you are nothing," she said.

She said that during her detention she was never brought before a court. Instead a magistrate came to the prison every 21 days to renew her remand.

She had had a lawyer, "but everything is corrupt", she said.

Sapa could not immediately get comment from the department of foreign affairs.

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