President Pieter W. Botha announced today that the 195-day-old state of emergency imposed to fight anti-apartheid turmoil in South Africa probably will be lifted on Friday.
His announcement was praised by the United States and was given a cautious welcome from some South African liberals. But it provoked expressions of concern from the largest anti-apartheid grouping, the United Democratic Front, that the emergency would be supplanted by repressive legislation.
Botha also made a new offer of statehood for Namibia, proposing an Aug. 1 target date for starting moves toward the territory's independence. He made it conditional on a withdrawal of Cuban troops from neighboring Angola.
Claims Violence Lower
Botha made his announcements to a packed parliamentary chamber in the country's legislative capital.
He claimed the level of violence had dropped sufficiently to enable him to issue a proclamation, "most probably this coming Friday," to lift the state of emergency.
But critics of the system of racial segregation that keeps power in the hands of South Africa's white minority said they could not readily explain the timing of Botha's announcement. They insisted that the level of violence has not dropped.
About 750 people are estimated to have been killed since the emergency was imposed July 21, compared with about 480 from the fall of 1984 when serious unrest began.
The emergency, imposed on 30 urban and rural districts and subsequently lifted from seven, gives police and troops sweeping powers to use guns against rioters and detain suspects indefinitely without trial.
New Laws Hinted
Botha made no mention of freeing the estimated 300 people being held under emergency powers, or of withdrawing the troops from black townships. He also said Parliament will be asked to review existing laws in case new ones are needed to help "protect lives and property effectively."
The United Democratic Front, a multiracial coalition of anti-apartheid groups, said lifting the emergency would be an "acknowledgment that the emergency has failed to suppress the desire of our people to be free."
But the organization expressed concern at Botha's mention of new laws, saying: "The government is going to broaden the already Draconian provisions of the Internal Security Act. The effect of this is that a de facto state of emergency will exist throughout our country."
The 70-year-old Afrikaner president offered to implement a U.N. resolution granting independence to Namibia if the Cubans leave Angola. Namibia, or South-West Africa, is under South African administration and is a target of guerrillas operating from Angola.
Botha said Namibia's 1 million people "have waited long enough for independence," a delay he claimed "cannot be laid at South Africa's door."
His promise to lift the state of emergency won praise from one of his most implacable foes, Member of Parliament Helen Suzman of the Progressive Federal Party.
Suzman said she was delighted because she assumed it meant the release of detainees.
She said the emergency had done nothing to calm the 18-month state of unrest, and warned that "unless an attempt is made to get to the roots of the unrest, we will have an ongoing, endemic state of violence in this country."
In Johannesburg, police said an explosion in the main police station at John Vorster Square injured two officers today and South African radio said two civilians also were wounded.
Police refused to say if it was a bomb, but reported that the blast went off in a third-story toilet, blowing a hole in an outer wall. It occurred just before noon.