WORLD

Pretoria’s velvet glove

BOB LEVIN July 7 1986
WORLD

Pretoria’s velvet glove

BOB LEVIN July 7 1986

Pretoria’s velvet glove

WORLD

SOUTH AFRICA

South Africa remained a vexed and violent land last week. Three bombs exploded in the port city of Durban, one of them setting off a huge fire near an oil refinery. Two days later two explosions ripped through a fast-food restaurant and a hotel in downtown Johannesburg, injuring 17 people. All the blasts were believed to be the work of black guerrillas. In Cape Town, President Pieter Botha declared that the state of emergency imposed on June 12 will continue “as long as is necessary,” and black activist Winnie Mandela—in an unauthorized television interview from her home in Soweto—said that blacks would “fight to the bitter end.” As the two positions hardened, the British government, dropping its earlier refusal to meet with officials of the outlawed African National Congress (ANC), granted the group’s leader, Oliver Tambo, an audience with the junior foreign minister in London. The policy reversal, said a British foreign office spokesman, was designed to “impress on the ANC that negotiation and dialogue is the way forward.”

Tambo described his 75-minute meeting with junior minister Lynda Chalker as “candid and cordial.” But British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher said that the policy change did not imply that she would now im-

pose economic sanctions against South Africa. Thatcher maintains that sanctions, supported by the Commonwealth countries’ Eminent Persons Group, would succeed only in hurting South Africa’s black majority. She added that they would also cost up to 120,000 British jobs in industries dependent on trade with South Africa.

Still, at week’s end, on the eve of a two-day summit of Western European leaders at The Hague, Chalker said that Thatcher would have “no hesitation in leading the way in the most effective way possible to bring about an end to apartheid.”

But much of the South African drama is still being played out behind a drawn curtain.

Current curbs on the media leave the government’s Bureau of Information as the only official source for news of black unrest and, in its continuing crackdown on press coverage, Pretoria last week expelled two foreign journalists. Since its imposition just prior to the 10th anniversary of the Soweto uprising, there has been “a significant

decrease in unrest-related incidents” in black townships, a bureau spokesman said. But even bureau spokesmen admit that 59 people have been killed since the emergency took effect.

On June 21, black police Brig. Andrew Molope was shot to death in the black homeland of Bophuthatswana, apparently by black guerrillas. Molope was in charge of policemen who fired on a crowd of protesters last March, killing 11 blacks. Last week’s bombings in Johannesburg, however, wounded mainly whites—16 of the 17 victims. Most of the injuries occurred in the first blast, which struck a Wimpy’s restaurant. About 20 minutes later the second explosion went off in a Holiday Inn also in the city centre. No one claimed responsibility for either bombing, although authorities were quick to blame the ANC.

While officials have released information on violent incidents, they have been conspicuously silent about reports of police detentions. In London, the human-rights group Amnesty International estimated that the South African government has detained about 3,000 people during the emergency. The organization said that some of the detainees have since been released. They included more than 100 children and elderly people seized during a church service in a black township near Graaff-Reinet in Cape Province on June 16. But Amnesty said that the remaining 500 people taken into custody at the church are still being held incommunicado.

At the same time, government prosecutors dropped charges of high treason against four activists accused of furthering the ANC’s antigovernment campaign. The treason trial, held in Pietermaritzburg in Natal Province, began in August, 1985, with 16 defendants. But 12 of them, members of the country’s largest legal antiapartheid group, the United Democratic Front, were acquitted in December. The remaining four were officials in the South African Allied Workers Union, and _ their acquittal, without i explanation, marked the z complete collapse of the S case. But the government shows no signs of abandoning its widely condemned emergency—or of leading the country toward anything but more bloodshed.

PETER YOUNGHUSBAND

BOB LEVIN with PETER YOUNGHUSBAND in Johannesburg