South Africa Broadens Powers to Prohibit Outdoor Gatherings

From Times Wire Services

The white-minority government Friday broadened its powers to outlaw gatherings and banned meetings it said would encourage workers to stay off their jobs.

The new ban appeared aimed at plans for a national day of prayer Oct. 9, called by leading foes of apartheid, including Nobel Peace laureate Bishop Desmond Tutu.

The order, issued by Minister of Law and Order Louis le Grange, did not name Tutu or the planned prayer gatherings. The ban will last until March 31, the government said. South African law gives Le Grange sweeping power to declare meetings illegal and detain people without charges.

The state of emergency imposed on 36 black areas July 21 gave police the authority to arrest almost anyone without charges. Some activists were held for a few hours, while others have been imprisoned since July 21.

Police said Friday that 815 people remained in detention without trial or access to a lawyer or relatives. They said 3,556 others had been freed from emergency detention.


Tutu on Hunger Strike

In Johannesburg, Bishop Tutu meditated and prayed silently at a news conference at which he refused to speak to reporters.

Tutu began a 24-hour hunger strike Friday to protest the presence of the army in the black townships. The troops back up police patrols cracking down on opposition to the government’s segregation policy, apartheid.

Police reported scattered anti-apartheid disturbances overnight, with no new deaths. They said a black mob set fire to a private home in Umlazi, outside Durban, and a black man inside the building suffered serious burns.

Blacks often attack other blacks seen as collaborators with the government. More than 700 blacks have died in 13 months of rioting against apartheid.