Allan Boesak spent his first night behind bars on Monday night, not in the chronically overcrowded Pollsmoor prison, but at one of South Africa's new-model jails in Malmesbury, 60km outside Cape Town.

Prisoner number 200527398 was booked into Pollsmoor Prison, but transferred to Malmesbury New Prison after friends overheard inmates threatening to rape and kill him, said a senior prison official.

He is now in the same prison as his nemesis, former Foundation for Peace and Justice (FPJ) bookkeeper Freddie Steenkamp.

The jail, according to prison officials, has an emphasis on developing inmates, rather that just locking them away.

Meanwhile, the African National Congress has acknowledged the FPJ may have assisted its leaders, as claimed earlier by Boesak.

Boesak began his three-year term for fraud and theft on Monday still protesting his innocence, and said prison was the price he had paid for his loyalty to the ANC.

He received a hero's sendoff from several hundred supporters, both at the Bellville police station - where he reported first - and again at Pollsmoor.

Several high-profile ANC members were among the supporters, including Charles Nqakula, Tony Yengeni, Ebrahim Rasool and Chris Nissen.

Fears that Boesak would receive preferential treatment were boosted when unionised Pollsmoor prison warders reportedly joined supporters in embracing their hero and chanted: "Let him walk."

Boesak supporters and African National Congress secretary for Cape Town's southern suburbs, Khalil Mullagie, said threats were made by awaiting-trial prisoners in vans being driven out of Pollsmoor.

Mullagie said he had the vans' registration numbers, and the names of several witnesses.

He had reported the incident at Kirstenhof police station.

"It was really rude comments. They said they will kill him if he's inside, they will rape him if he's inside."

Boesak was booked in at Polsmoor's admissions centre, given his prison number and had his personal details entered into the prison's computer shortly before 11am.

He then went to hospital for a checkup, and after that had an opportunity to say goodbye to his wife Elna and children, who accompanied him into the centre.

He was allowed to take his watch and ring in with him.

A group of pastors had also held a short prayer service for Boesak in the centre.

The official said the fact that Elna, the clergymen and senior ANC memebers were allowed into the centre was not necessarily preferential treatment.

The official said the prisoners' threats against Boesak had been reported to prison authorities, and the move to Malmesbury was motivated partly by security and safety considerations.

Family friend Barend Hendricks said the last farewells to Boesak had been extremely emotional.

"Words could not describe it," he said.

Addressing supporters outside Pollsmoor, Elna vowed to wear black until Boesak was released, and said she and her family would find a way to ensure his imprisonment was remembered on the 15th of every month.

Boesak told the crowd: "I have kept silent because I knew that the day will come that the silence will be broken."

At a media conference on Sunday, Boesak said his FPJ was a front for the United Democratic Front and the ANC, and most of the donor funds received had been used to bankroll the political work of both organisations.

He had decided not to testify in his fraud and theft trial, because his testimony would have implicated ANC leaders and organisations. This would have jeopardised their work, especially shortly before the 1999 elections.

In his reaction, ANC national spokesperson Smuts Ngonyama said: "It's no secret there was assistance to the ANC and other non-governmental organisations. It is possible the FPJ did assist."

Ngonyama was unable to say which ANC members had received help from Boesak's FPJ. He said even if he knew, he would not be able to comment, as the matter was still sub judice.

He was referring to plans by Boesak to appeal to the Constitutional Court.

Asked whether it was more important to remain loyal to the ANC than testify in a court of law, Ngonyama said: "Absolutely. It says something about securing democracy in this country. It is proving a point to the country as a whole."

Ngonyama said those who may have received financial assistance had not benefited as individuals, but were given money to advance the cause of the ANC.

Boesak's lawyer, Chris Petty, said there were several constitutional grounds legal representatives might use as a last-ditch effort to free Boesak.

However, there would be greater clarity next week.

Boesak has ruled out asking President Thabo Mbeki for a presidential pardon. - Sapa