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Nieman Foundation Invites Woods Here

By James C. Thomson jr.


The University has invited Donald Woods, the white South African editor who recently escaped from that country, to come here as a visiting fellow at the Nieman Foundation for Journalism.

Although Woods has not formally accepted the invitation, he is "seriously considering" coming here, James C. Thomson Jr., curator of the Nieman Foundation, said yesterday.

Woods, who has consistently opposed South Africa's apartheid policies, left the country on Dec. 31, two months after the government imposed severe restrictions on his movements and prohibited him from publishing.

Thomson and President Bok agreed to offer Woods a post as visiting Nieman fellow shortly after they learned of his escape. The Nieman Foundation is empowered to give the title to "occasional special visitors," Thomson said.

The position does not normally carry a stipend, but Thomson said he has contacted journalists and groups concerned about South Africa and he is sure they will donate to a fund for Woods.

The Nieman Foundation has invited Woods to take up the post--which carries no specific duties--when he wishes, and to stay here until June, 1979.

Thomson said he called Woods last week in London, where Woods is finishing his book on Steven Biko, the dead leader of South Africa's black consciousness movement.

Woods was unable to give a definite answer over the telephone, but will come here to discuss Harvard's offer next week, Thomson said. Woods will be in this country to speak to United Nations representatives about the situation in South Africa.

A Critle

Before the government placed a fiveyear banning order on him, Woods was the editor of the East London Daily Dispatch. However, he made more impact through a nationally syndicated column, in which he regularly criticized the apartheid system, Thomson said.

Obed Kunene, editor of South Africa's only African language paper and a current Nieman fellow, said yesterday Woods has been outstanding among white South African journalists for fearlessly--and consistently--attacking apartheid.

"Naturally he incurred government displeasure and anger, but at the same time he earned the respect of people, both black and white, who subscibe to the idea of free speech," Kunene said.

Woods escaped from South Africa by dying his hair and donning a false mustache, and hitchhiking 180 miles to Lesotho. He met his wife and family there, and flew with them to England.

Percy Qoboza, editor of South Africa's largest black newspaper and a former Nieman fellow, is still in jail in South Africa, Thomson said.

Thomson said Qoboza, who was detained in the same government crackdown in which Woods was banned, is apparently in good physical condition.

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