Clashes End Black Unity Rally in S. Africa

Times Staff Writer

Rival black political groups, brought together by clergymen, held a series of prayer meetings around South Africa on Sunday for black unity, but the largest service ended with more fighting despite pledges of peace.

After a three-hour rally of more than 70,000 outside Port Elizabeth in eastern Cape province, where the rivalry has been fiercest recently, members of the United Democratic Front and the Azanian People’s Organization clashed as they left the unity service at a local sports stadium.

The Port Elizabeth chairman of the Azanian People’s Organization was pulled from a truck as it moved through a crowd of United Democratic Front supporters and abducted along with other organization members, according to clergymen who tried to halt the fighting.

Half a dozen other members of the Azanian group were stoned and stabbed, again reportedly by front supporters, and at least four were hospitalized in serious condition. And a community hall used by an Azanian People’s Organization youth group was burned by rivals.


The fighting, a resurgence of the angry black feuding that has killed at least nine people country-wide in the past six weeks, could upset the truce effort of the clergymen who arranged Sunday’s prayer meeting in Soweto outside Johannesburg and in six other black townships east and west of Soweto and in eastern Cape province.

‘Delaying Our Liberation’

“Our freedom is in our hands, and we are delaying our liberation,” Bishop Desmond Tutu, the Nobel Peace laureate, told a Soweto congregation of 2,000, urging the rival groups to end their increasingly violent quarrels. “The only reason that we are not yet free today is that we have allowed ourselves to be divided.”

Tutu, who returned late last week from a visit to California, rebuked the various black political organizations for showing less solidarity and more selfishness than the groups campaigning in America against South Africa’s apartheid policies of racial segregation.


In Soweto, the clergymen succeeded in bringing together for the firs time in nine months top officials of the United Democratic Front, a coalition of 650 anti-apartheid groups, and of the more militant, black consciousness Azanian People’s Organization, known as Azapo. They were joined by representatives of the Zulu political movement Inkatha. Out of this, it was hoped, will come an end to a murderous feud and, eventually, a common strategy against apartheid.

The two groups differ sharply in ideology and strategy, reflecting the deep divisions among South Africa’s 24 million blacks.

The United Democratic Front believes that everyone living in the country, black and white, should participate in its government on an equal basis, and it thus includes whites as well as blacks among its members.

As an offshoot of the black consciousness movement, Azapo believes that blacks must “repossess the land” and must end capitalism as well. Azapo greatly distrusts whites, including liberals, and feels that blacks must achieve their liberation alone if it is not to be stolen from them by whites.