South Africa Warns Zimbabwe of Attack : Will Pursue Rebels Across Border if Mine Blasts Aren’t Halted

Times Staff Writer

Zimbabwe was warned Wednesday that South African troops will attack black nationalist guerrillas there if the government of Prime Minister Robert Mugabe does not prevent the insurgents from crossing the border for operations in South Africa.

Angered and alarmed by the fourth land-mine explosion in two days near the border community of Messina in northeastern Transvaal province, South Africa said its forces are ready now to pursue the guerrillas in case of further attacks.

“The Zimbabwean government has been informed that steps must be taken urgently to ensure no further incidents of this nature take place,” Roelof F. (Pik) Botha, the South African foreign minister, said in a prepared statement. “Otherwise, the South African security forces will have no other choice but to follow the tracks themselves.”


South African officials blamed the blasts on guerrillas of the African National Congress, the main underground group fighting minority white rule here. They expressed concern that the mines represent a new offensive in the border areas--matching a recent surge in bomb and grenade attacks in urban areas, particularly Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban.

One of the land-mine explosions Wednesday wrecked an army troop carrier and seriously injured four soldiers who had been searching the area for mines and traces of three guerrillas who are believed to have planted them and then fled back across the Limpopo River into southern Zimbabwe. The second blast damaged an armored police vehicle, but no one was injured.

On Tuesday, a truck driver and his passenger, both blacks, were injured in one blast, and a white farmer was thrown from his truck by another. Two other mines, both manufactured in Czechoslovakia and each packed with 15 pounds of explosives, have been found and defused in the area.

South Africa’s tough warning to Zimbabwe was based on reports by residents of the region that they had seen three men, all strangers, in the blast area late Monday and perhaps Tuesday and on tracks that led to the Limpopo bank and across into Zimbabwe.

Over the last six months, South African forces have crossed into Angola at least six times in announced operations to pursue guerrillas belonging to the South-West Africa People’s Organization fighting in Namibia, which Pretoria rules in defiance of U.N. calls for its independence. They have also raided African National Congress offices and residences in Gaborone, the capital of neighboring Botswana.

In recent years, South African troops have also attacked guerrilla bases in Mozambique and Lesotho.


Pledge From Harare

In Zimbabwe’s capital of Harare on Wednesday, the government assured South Africa that, although it supports the black nationalists, it would not allow its territory to be used to mount attacks on South Africa.

Five more people were reported killed--three of them the apparent victims of black political feuding--in South Africa’s continuing civil unrest as violence continued around much of the country.

A man was shot and killed at Huhudi near Vryburg in northern Cape province, according to police headquarters in Pretoria, when a policeman fired on a mob attacking a town councilman’s shop with firebombs.

A black girl died at Huhudi after being doused with gasoline and set afire in what police described as political infighting; a man who was set afire in the same incident was reported in critical condition.

At Khuni, a village near East London in the nominally independent Xhosa tribal homeland of Ciskei, a 26-year-old black man was found burned to death, the second killed this way in two days there.

At Chesterville, near Durban, a youth was stabbed to death after a mob of more than 100 attacked a home in what police said appeared to be more political infighting.


In Soweto, outside Johannesburg, a black woman was shot and killed by a policeman who said the car in which she was riding had tried to force his off the road and he had opened fire.

Two hundred political detainees were reported to have begun a three-day hunger strike Wednesday at Diepkloof Prison in Soweto to call for their release and an end to the four-month-old state of emergency here.