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Last Updated: Thursday, 30 March 2006, 16:37 GMT 17:37 UK
Mandela appeals for ex-prisoners
Nelson Mandela
Mandela joked that he had lost his fund-raising pull
Former South African President Nelson Mandela has said more must be done to help thousands of ex-political prisoners, many of whom are in poverty.

A trust was set up 10 years ago, but Mr Mandela appealed for more funds.

He called on South African businesses to help as many as 3,000 political prisoners from the apartheid era.

Mr Mandela, who was South Africa's most famous prisoner for 27 years, said his fellow inmates had made huge sacrifices for their country.

"If I still had the fund-raising pull that I once had, I would have gone full-out in this worthy pursuit," the ex-president joked to reporters in Johannesburg.

'Critical matter'

Some former political prisoners occupy key positions in government and industry, but many are reported to be unemployed, living in poverty, and some have suffered mental illness.

Defence Minister Mosiuoa Lekota, who is heading the latest fundraising campaign with Mr Mandela's backing, described the veterans' situation as "a critical matter of conscience".

"We have to sustain them. It gives us sleepless nights," he said, adding that the "very minimum support" the veterans deserved was to ensure that they were "buried decently."

He said a trust that was set up in 1996 needed to be sustainable.



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