President Pieter W. Botha declared a nationwide state of emergency here Thursday, putting the country under virtual martial law.
Botha said his government could not cope with South Africa's growing civil strife without additional police powers. He accordingly gave the security forces almost unlimited powers, including the authority to issue whatever orders they regard as necessary, to use whatever force is required to restore law and order, to detain any person indefinitely without charge, to conduct searches and seizures without warrants and to censor the news media.
The measures were more sweeping than any imposed before, including those instituted during the partial state of emergency imposed last July and lifted only in March.
Clergy, Activists Arrested
In pre-dawn raids even before the state of emergency was announced, police and troops began arresting more than 1,200 anti-apartheid activists, clergymen, union officials and student leaders of all races throughout the country.
More arrests were made through the day as security forces searched churches, clinics, schools, union offices and the headquarters of major anti-apartheid groups. Early today, they moved to seize the current issue of an independent newspaper, the Weekly Mail, on grounds that it is "subversive."
Thousands of white army reservists were called up to active duty, and heavily armed military patrols were stationed in and around most of the country's riot-torn black ghettos. Soldiers also patrolled downtown areas, along many highways and at key facilities such as railroad stations and airports.
The government's move drew sharp warnings that, far from restoring peace, it could bring more violence and more deaths as the security forces use their new powers to suppress all opposition to the white-led minority government and its apartheid system of racial separation.
Murphy Morobe, spokesman for the United Democratic Front, a coalition of anti-apartheid groups with 2 million members, said that the roundup of hundreds of community leaders, many of them officials of the Front, "has effectively paved the way for a bloodbath in the country."
In Washington, White House spokesman Larry Speakes and State Department spokesman Bernard Kalb issued identical statements calling the new measures "repressive" and "a serious mistake."
But Botha, justifying the new state of emergency, told Parliament in Cape Town that "the security of the state could be at stake."
"Radicals and anarchists" are planning widespread protests and possibly terrorist attacks in the near future, Botha asserted, referring to plans to commemorate the 10th anniversary Monday of black riots that began in Soweto outside Johannesburg and swept the country for 11 months.
'Ordinary Laws' Inadequate
As a result, the president said, "the ordinary laws of the land are inadequate to enable the government to ensure the security of the public and maintain order."
The struggle in South Africa is no longer between white supremacists wanting to uphold apartheid and blacks wanting equal rights, Botha argued, but between moderates of all races and those who want a violent revolution and a Communist government.
While reaffirming his commitment to political, economic and social reforms, Botha said that "in this climate of increasing violence, it is not possible for the reasonable majority to continue the search for a peaceful and democratic solution" to South Africa's problems. He said the state of emergency, for which no time limit was announced, is intended to reduce the violence and make negotiations on "evolutionary, constitutional" change possible.
Leaders of the anti-apartheid movement denounced the government's actions and pleaded for foreign punitive action.
Bishop Desmond Tutu, the Nobel Peace laureate, said: "Only intervention by the outside world can avoid Armageddon. What is the world waiting for?
"What must now happen to prove to the world that we have intransigent people to deal with? We are looking for a nonviolent solution. One keeps trying to make people understand our deepest longing is to have a South Africa where black and white will be able to live amicably together."
Morobe of the United Democratic Front also called for tough international action, such as economic sanctions and diplomatic isolation, against Pretoria. "Now is the time," Morobe said from hiding. "To procrastinate is to sell the lives of millions of oppressed South Africans down the apartheid drain."
Move Called 'Tragic'
Chief Mangosuthu Gatsha Buthelezi, the moderate Zulu leader, called Botha's move "tragic" because the improving climate for political negotiations between whites and blacks had been poisoned.
And from its headquarters in Lusaka, Zambia, the African National Congress, the principal guerrilla group fighting minority white rule here, said, "Our people will respond to these provocative acts of repression by observing this 10th anniversary of the Soweto uprising in their millions, ensuring the June 16 strike is the biggest in the history of the country."
Business groups also reacted strongly against the move, criticizing it as a step away from peaceful resolution of South Africa's problems and as an economic blunder from which the country would have trouble recovering.
The Federated Chamber of Industries, the largest employer organization, said it "dissociates itself from the strategy of political repression and economic isolation to which the South African government is apparently committed." Similar statements came from other business groups.
Only from his own party, the Nationalists, their Indian and Colored (mixed-race) partners in Parliament and two ultraright parties did Botha draw any support, and much of that was qualified.
But the 70-year-old president, anticipating the domestic criticism and the prospect of international sanctions, brushed it all aside, reminding his fellow Afrikaners that "we are not a nation of weaklings" and urging them to stand up to the pressure, though it will require sacrifices by all.
Nation 'Will Not Crawl'
"I do not want to bring sanctions over my country," he said in a nationwide television address Thursday evening, acknowledging that the crackdown could well hasten punitive international action against South Africa. "I do, however, want to state clearly that it is also not in the interest of my country to stand continually under the threat of sanctions.
"South Africa will not crawl before anyone to prevent (sanctions), and if it has to come we will make sure that it is to our advantage in the long term. . . . "
The immediate targets of the crackdown were such major national anti-apartheid groups as the United Democratic Front, the Azanian People's Organization, the End Conscription Campaign and the Catholic Church.
But hundreds of community leaders in cities and towns around the country were also arrested in the raids, which began shortly after midnight and continued through the day.
By nightfall, more than 1,200 people had been arrested under internal security laws that permit detention without charge for up to two weeks, according to lists compiled by the South African Council of Churches. Government sources said that many of those would continue to be held under the emergency regulations, which permit indefinite detention without trial.
Among those detained were Saths Cooper, president of the black consciousness Azanian People's Organization; Father Smangaliso Mkhwatsha, secretary general of the Southern African Catholic Bishops Conference; Piroshaw Camay, general secretary of the Council of Unions of South Africa; Bishop Sigisbert Ndwandwe, the Anglican suffragan bishop of Johannesburg; Edgar Ngoyi, regional president of the United Democratic Front in Port Elizabeth; Aubrey Mokoena, secretary of the Release Mandela Campaign, and Sister Bernard Ncube, a leading women's and Catholic activist.
Also arrested were labor union officials from Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban, Port Elizabeth and other industrial centers, student leaders from half a dozen major universities, Indian community leaders from Johannesburg and Durban and numerous clergymen and church workers.
Hundreds of key anti-apartheid activists, anticipating the crackdown, were already in hiding, however, and quickly declared their intention to continue their challenge to the government.
The emergency regulations promulgated by Botha and Louis le Grange, the minister of law and order, go far beyond any similar measures in the past, according to lawyers who reviewed them Thursday, and appear to give the security forces virtually unlimited power.
The regulations permit any noncommissioned officer in the police or army to give any orders he believes necessary to "any person at any place" to maintain public order and to use "such force as he under the circumstances may deem necessary" to ensure that those orders are carried out. Almost no limitations are placed on this authority.
Any policeman or soldier may detain anyone without charge for up to two weeks, and this may be extended indefinitely by the minister of law and order. Prisoners are not allowed access to their families, lawyers or personal physicians without permission; no information is to be released about them, not even the fact of their detention, without government authorization.
While held in detention, prisoners are not allowed to write or receive letters, to read anything except the Bible, to study, to listen to the radio or play music, to sing or whistle. Their families may bring them money and clean clothes, but not food.
If prison officials find them insolent, disobedient, idle, careless or if they violate prison rules, they may be punished by being beaten, deprived of meals or placed in solitary confinement in punishment cells for 30 days, during 24 of which they can be placed on "spare" or "reduced" rations.
Other regulations permit police to close down businesses, to impose curfews, to require residents of an area to be in their homes and to bar all non-residents.
News coverage of unrest will be restricted as it was for several months late last year and early this year. Newsmen may not photograph or make videotapes of any demonstrations, strikes or other protests or any police action to control them.
May Seize Publications
The new regulations also permit the government to seize any newspapers, magazines or other materials containing "subversive statements," a term so broadly defined that it could encompass most of the opposition speeches in Parliament.
No police or government actions under the state of emergency may be challenged in court, according to Botha's proclamation, and a policeman or soldier may not be prosecuted or sued for any action he takes during the emergency period.
Anyone convicted of violating any of these regulations or those that may be made later under the state of emergency can be sentenced to 10 years in prison.