JOHN BIERMAN September 18 1989



JOHN BIERMAN September 18 1989




Under a dark winter sky, the red glow of burning street barricades was reflected of the evening clouds lowering over the Colored township of Manenberg, on the outskirts of Cape Town. Flanked by an armored car, police in riot gear moved steadily down the street, firing their shotguns and tear-gas launchers as they went, aiming at demonstrators and bystanders alike. The boom of their guns mingled with shouts of defiance and the screams of the wounded. It was election day in South Africa.

Exactly how many people died on polling day last week is still a matter of dispute, but the killings cast a long shadow over the election victory of acting president Frederik de Klerk (page 36). He could dismiss the setbacks that his long-dominant National Party (NP) had taken at the hands of both

the left and the right because he still enjoyed an overall parliamentary majority. But the sincerity of de Klerk’s call for “an entirely new South Africa” had been cast in doubt by the behavior of his police, as they ran with whips, batons and shotguns through the segregated black and Colored (mixed race) townships of the Cape. That may now lead to growing international condemnation and a tightening of the sanctions that are already biting deep into the South African economy.

Still, de Klerk seemed determined to ignore complaints about police brutality and put the best possible gloss on the election results. Although his party had registered its weakest electoral performance in 31 years, he claimed that he was “satisfied” with the outcome. And he said that the result—which left the NP in power with a slender majority and boosted the standing of the liberal Democratic Party (DP)— showed that 70 per cent of the white voters favored reforms that would give political rights to the 26-million-strong black majority. For their part, the disenfranchised blacks had cast their own kind of ballot—a massive protest against the system. In the biggest strike in South African history, as many as three million blacks—more than the white, Colored and Indian voters combined—stayed at home on polling day.

Irrelevant: When the final votes were tallied last week—leaving one tied contest to be rerun—de Klerk’s cautiously reformist Nationalists held 93 of the all-white House of Assembly’s 166 elected seats, 30 fewer than in the last parliament. The extreme-right Conservative Party (CP), which wants a return to oldstyle apartheid, had 39 seats—17 more than before. And the DP, which seeks faster and more sweeping reforms than the NP does, had 33 seats, an increase of 13. Desmond Tutu, the Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town who is the

anti-apartheid movement’s most visible spokesman, dismissed those results as irrelevant. He added, “The white people will play their own games in their own white parliament.”

In Lusaka, the Zambian capital, the exiled African National Congress (ANC) also issued a statement calling the elections “irrelevant” and “a farce.” But the powerful Zulu leader Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi said that the vote was “pertinently important.” Added Buthelezi, who commands the loyalty of a majority of South Africa’s estimated six million Zulus: “I see the election as heralding an entirely new and very distinctive political era.”

Whatever impact the new balance of forces in parliament may have on the pace of change in South Africa, it was clear that the way in which police handled demonstrations before and during election day will damage the country’s image abroad. External Affairs Minister Joe Clark expressed shock at the number of deaths allegedly caused by police action. And he ordered Ottawa’s ambassador in Pretoria, Roland MacLean, to lodge a strong protest and demand the exercise of “maximum restraint” in dealing with any further unrest.

The anti-apartheid Mass Democratic Movement (MDM) alleged that 23 people were killed by police in seven black and Colored townships

on polling day, making the election the bloodiest in South African history (page 38). Cape Town lawyer Essa Moosa, a prominent antiapartheid figure with an impressive network of informants in the townships, later put the death toll at 29. For their part, the police said that 15 people were killed—10 of them as the result of factional violence among blacks, not of police action.

Brutality: But police Lieut. Gregory Rockman alleged that an anti-riot squad had behaved “like wild dogs” in a Colored suburb of Cape Town (page 35). Tutu declared that “many people claim we are melodramatic” in charging that the police provoke needless violence. However, he added, Rockman’s testimony confirmed that that was the case. Tutu challenged de Klerk to condemn the police, and another prominent non white clergyman, Allan Boesak, president of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, said that he was shaken by the police brutality that he had seen in the townships. Both clerics urged their followers to march illegally on parliament this week to protest the police killings. Declared Boesak: “De Klerk sits now in a pool of blood. People who begin a new term of office with a massacre have no right to be in government.”

Independent accounts tended to confirm a heavier death toll than the police admitted—

and widespread police violence. Iris Dyantyi, who works for an animal welfare agency in the black township of Khayelitsha, said that she comforted a dying five-year-old girl whose stomach had been ripped open by police shotgun fire. Dyantyi added: “She told me to look under her dress. Her stomach was all open. Everything had fallen out through the hole in her stomach.” Dyantyi said that she gave first aid to about 20 other people who had been riddled with bird shot. “I took a [razor] blade to cut the bullets out,” she said. “I didn’t have medicine, so I washed the wounds with wee [urine]. Five of them died.” Dr. Louis Reynolds, a white, said that he treated 42 Colored youths for shotgun wounds and sent seven to hospital with life-threatening injuries. Struggling to keep his composure, Reynolds said: “I saw police driving through the streets shooting at people without any particular aim or direction. It was as if it was a game for them.”

Casualties: Journalists, who are forbidden under emergency regulations from writing about police action, said that they witnessed similar incidents. One group of reporters saw five white police officers, accompanied by an armored car, walk through the Colored township of Manenberg, near Cape Town, firing shotguns and tear-gas launchers. Later, a crowd had set fire to barricades made of tree


branches and mattresses, the journalists said, and after the armored car smashed through one barricade, the five policemen got out. Then, advancing to the next barricade, they slowly raised their weapons and opened fire, straight ahead and down side streets. Officials at the Cape Town city morgue said the next day that they had received 16 bodies, and the Groote Schuur Hospital reported that 40 people were admitted with birdshot wounds. Two other hospitals each reported treating 20 shotgun casualties.

Deaths: Among the polling day fatalities were a 69-yearold woman and two children, aged six and 14, who died in an attack on their home in Khayelitsha. Tutu said that their killers were policemen, but a police statement blamed the deaths—and those of four other people— on “20 masked men” who attacked with guns and then set fire to the house. According to Tutu, a woman, 63, died of a heart attack in another incident in which police fired into her house through a window. In a further incident,

Tutu claimed, a woman was decapitated and her body riddled with shotgun pellets.

It is winter in South Africa, and the normally mild Cape was enduring an unusual cold spell on election day. As an icy rain fell, staccato bursts of shotgun fire could be heard, punctuated by shouts and the screams of the whipped and wounded. Large areas of the desolate sand flats where the Colored and black townships are located were cut off by rioting. A single 1.5km stretch of highway was littered by dozens of

burning barricades. Said one correspondent: “It’s madness out here. It’s pitch-dark, freezing cold, the roads are all blocked, and the kids are stoning and petrol-bombing everything that moves. And the cops are running around the place trying to keep the lid on by lashing out at anyone who looks like he’s remotely involved.”

Strike: But it was the massive polling day strike that best demonstrated the strength of the nonwhite protest. According to an MDM estimate, three million workers stayed at home and no community or industry in the country was unaffected. The independent Labour MoniS toring Group gave a slightly i lower estimate than the MDM. g. In any case, MDM spokesman I Murphy Morobe said that it ° was “the biggest mass action in the history of South Africa.”

Meanwhile, a majority of the country’s three million Coloreds and almost one million citizens of Indian descent staged a different kind of protest. Under a reform enacted in 1984 by then-President Pieter Botha, each community has its own separate—and largely powerless—parliamentary chamber. But fully 80 per cent of eligible Colored and Indian voters stayed away from the polls. And in one mixedrace suburb of Cape Town, Mitchells Plain, 98 per cent abstained. Political activists in the Colored townships of the Cape and the Indian townships of Natal customarily accuse those who run for election of supporting apartheid.

Apartheid: But Rev. Allan Hendrickse, leader of the Labor Party, which won 60 of the 80 directly elected seats in the Colored House of

_ Representatives, claims that

his constitutional delaying powers put him in a strong position to force the repeal of remaining apartheid laws. Hendrickse said that, in return for co-operating with the NP’s legislative program, he would demand the repeal of the Separate Amenities Act, which allows conservative town councils to bar nonwhites from parks, swimming pools and beaches; the Group Areas Act, which specifies where members of different races may live; and the Race Classification Act, which determines whether citizens are officially white, Colored or Indian. The situation in the 45-member Indian House of Delegates was less clear-cut. The election left no single party in control, and analysts

predicted that the chronically squabbling chamber would not exert any significant influence on future developments.

In the voting for the all-white and all-important House of Assembly, the turnout was estimated at just below 70 per cent. About one million votes were cast for the NP, 600,000 for the CP and 450,000 for the DP. And in claiming that the result showed that 70 per cent of the voters were in favor of reform—a figure that takes into account the combined votes for the NP and DP—de Klerk implied that the NP was now closer in spirit to the liberal Democrats than to the Conservatives.

Still, de Klerk said that he would not be pressured by either side of the House in the execution of his five-year plan to give representation—but not the power to dominate—to the black majority. He added, “We are looking forward to the next five years to take our mandate and bring it to fruition without looking over either shoulder, left or right.”

Change: But leaders of the DP, elated by the surge in their fortunes, concluded that the old days of absolute NP domination of parliament were over. Denis Worrall, a former South African ambassador to London who is one of the Democrats’ three co-leaders and the newly elected MP for a Durban constituency, said, “We are looking at a whole new political ball game from now on.”

Glenn Babb, South Africa’s controversial ambassador to Canada from 1985 to 1987, lost his bid for a parliamentary seat. As a Nationalist candidate, Babb fought DP co-leader Wynand Malan for the key Randburg constituency, losing by 1,714 votes. During the rough-andtumble campaign, Malan accused Babb of trying to smear the DP by circulating a fraudulent

MDM pamphlet associating the Democrats with the outlawed ANC. The third of the DP’s coleaders, Zach de Beer, was also elected by a comfortable margin over his Nationalist rival. Overall, the DP performed strongly among affluent urban Afrikaners—white South Africans of Dutch descent—and gained the support of

many liberal, English-speaking whites who had previously voted for the Nationalists.

The Conservatives’ main strength was in the rural areas of the Transvaal and the Orange Free State. But, although the CP picked up 17 seats overall and remains the official opposition, it made few gains in the urban, blue-collar areas where its members tried to capitalize on white working-class fears of competition from blacks. One senior diplomatic observer said

that the result had confirmed pre-election speculation that the CP had “hit a natural ceiling.” Added the diplomat: “I personally think the CP has peaked and do not expect it to grow any more. On the other hand, the Democrats did very well, and I believe, as they claim, that they are the party of the future.”

The election results clearly showed that the vast majority of white voters now want some kind of political reform. But it also seemed likely that those who voted NP do not want reform to interfere with white economic and social privileges or to lead to political domination by the black majority. De Klerk has not detailed any plan to respond to those conflicting pressures. At the same time, there appears to be little likelihood of early negotiations with the ANC on the pace and scope of reform. The ANC traditionally has demanded a one-personone-vote formula, which the NP firmly rejects because that system would substitute black domination for white 5 domination. Also, the ANC’s conditions £ for talks include the end of the threei year-old state of emergency, the legal£ ization of banned political groups and I the release of jailed or confined lead° ers, including ANC leader Nelson Mandela.

Threat: As he planned his next steps, de Klerk was faced with the threat of a new wave of international economic sanctions. Said a senior Western diplomat: “With a Commonwealth summit just weeks away and billions of dollars in foreign debts to be rolled over, de Klerk must pull some political rabbits out of the hat, and quickly.”




' wat :hing the h irsh ction,-. of polk aga nst .v iat mec “pe tc ?ful protesters and “innocent” bystanders during an anti-apartheid demonstrat on las week, South African police Lieut. Gregory Rockman det ided :o voice hi mger Wit i that íe risked 1 ;; Lí ea r cé r« er in lavr enforcement—and perhaps retaliatory att icks by u hite extremists. But said Rock ma i 30, ■'. o is classified as Co iret undei Soutl Africa's race laws “Some time, somehow, there must be a stop to things.” \ ■; :nts thé t upset h m took place n the Colored [mixed race) township Mitchel s Pli in tear Cape 1 ; wn, wh; me pre entio : offic r with the local poli ;e deta; hn ait. As 30 high-¡ ;j ( ol students took part in what Rockman described as a “peaceful and harmless” protest

against the segregated elections held on Sept.

6, he ga ve then 20 minutes to ‘ do the r thing” . d disperse. But a riot unit arrived just as the students were dispersing and, he said, “stormed the kids like wild dogs,” wielding

whips and batons.

After breaking up the students’ protest,

Rockman all “ged the no unit moved to a nearby bus station where its members launched repeated forays, without warning* into “the normal, curious crowds,” including midmoming shoppers. Added Rockman: “1 hey vere just hit :ing pec pie. They couldn’t care if they were innocent bystanders or not. It sc : med to me that they were enjoying themselves, feasting on the people. Vou could just see the kille : instinct in heir eyes.”

One of th i injured was an rig! t-monthspi ;gnant woman Another woman, who was waiting for a bus, was whipped by four policenen at once, Rockman claimed. ‘She was jumping up and down (to escape their blows]. Then she ran, and they chased her. One of them even fell and then got up again and chased

her, hitting 1 er. ", here was an elder : nan whocollapf edfrom the beating. They didn't helphim Tl ey didn’t care.l had to radio for [medical] assistance.”

In an attempt to prevent further police violence, said Rockman, he walked into the ai gry and frighte led crov rd to persuade them to disperse But a major who was in command of the riot unit, ordei e ! him tc “get out ofthat f-ingero vd or otherwise I will lock you ip.” The following day, Rockman was summoned before the regional police cor imissionei inCap ï Town, who he said,‘ shoutedat me for 20 minutes.” When he for ma ly complained that the : eason :o the riots in Mitchells Plain was “the unprofessional doings of the riot unit,” the commissioner said that his allegations would be investigated. “But will they be?” said Rockman “That is the question.” Clearly realizing that e had put his ca ree : in jeopai iy, he added: “I'm not co i cerned about that. This is the turning point in my life.” □ I