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Bomb Kills Two Whites in S. Africa : Attack May Signal Test of Government Over Apartheid

Times Staff Writer

Three days after the government imposed a national state of emergency to curb black unrest, terrorists struck with a car bomb that exploded Saturday night on Durban’s crowded beachfront, killing two white women and seriously injuring at least 15 other people.

Although no group immediately claimed responsibility for the explosion, the attack could be the start of a violent “test of strength” this week on the 10th anniversary of black riots that began in Soweto, outside Johannesburg, and continued nationwide for 11 months.

Vows to Use Full Force

The government warned earlier Saturday that all violence in connection with the Soweto anniversary, as well as with anti-apartheid protests of any kind, will be met with the full might of its security forces.

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The Pretoria government has blamed guerrillas of the outlawed African National Congress, which has been fighting to overthrow South Africa’s white-led government for more than 25 years, for a series of recent bombings in the Durban area, including one before Christmas that killed five people.

The women killed in Saturday’s Durban blast were in a popular restaurant inside a seafront hotel. The force of the explosion sent debris, deadly as shrapnel, flying half a block in every direction, a government spokesman said. A second explosion, perhaps in the gasoline tank of a car, occurred within a few seconds outside a nearby bowling alley.

Several Fires Burn

The first explosion caused heavy damage to the hotel and restaurant, to another nearby hotel and to two apartment buildings, the spokesman said, and several fires burned into the night along the seafront. Witnesses said the car bomb threw the automobile’s engine more than 100 yards.

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Police, on alert for bomb attacks, began to cordon off the area and conduct searches even before ambulances and first-aid crews arrived to treat the wounded. The press was barred from the area under emergency regulations restricting news coverage.

Saturday night’s blast may have been calculated to demonstrate the vulnerability of whites to terrorist attacks as well as the growing capability of blacks to undertake urban guerrilla operations.

David W. Steward, chief of the government’s information bureau, said that police and troops will be deployed in force to ensure that the government remains in complete control in the face of plans for a general strike by black workers and for other nationwide protests on Monday.

Referring to calls on blacks by African National Congress headquarters in Lusaka, Zambia, to make the protests “a test of strength” in the wake of Thursday’s declaration of a national state of emergency, Steward said, “The government will be able to maintain complete control during this period.”

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Police, Army Reinforced

Thousands of white military reservists have reportedly been called up to reinforce police and army units already on riot duty. Combat troops are now deployed around many of the country’s urban black ghettos, and soldiers are on patrol in downtown areas, suburban shopping centers and at government buildings and other key facilities. Throughout the day Saturday, military convoys moved along the country’s main roads, transporting troops.

Earlier Saturday in Durban, police and troops had cordoned off large sections of the downtown area and searched cars and pedestrians, apparently finding nothing.

Police later used tear gas to disperse mourners at funerals in Soweto and Daveyton outside Johannesburg, and at New Brighton near Port Elizabeth, on grounds that they violated the new police-imposed limit of 200 people at funerals.

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In Johannesburg on Saturday evening, security police demanded to see the pre-publication pages of City Press, a black-edited weekly newspaper, to determine if it planned to publish “subversive” materials.

‘Just a Tiny, Tiny Bit’

“This is a manifestation of the state of emergency,” Steward told a press briefing in Pretoria, the capital. “The South African defense forces and the South Africa police will be deploying units in strength. What you have seen is just a tiny, tiny bit of what we can deploy.”

A similar warning came from Louis Nel, deputy minister of information, who told South African newspaper editors in Johannesburg on Saturday, “We did not declare a state of emergency and assume these additional powers for show; we intend to use them as fully as the situation requires.

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“The African National Congress says that it can make this country ungovernable,” Nel said, according to one of the editors present at the private meeting. “Well, we have what it takes to govern, and we will show all that we are, in fact, governing and in control, complete control, in the country. . . . Anyone who challenges us does so at his own peril.”

‘Resist Diabolical Forces’

In the northern town of Pietersburg, Foreign Minister Roelof F. (Pik) Botha told supporters of the ruling National Party, “We will resist the diabolical forces, and it does not matter what it costs.”

The number of daily “incidents of unrest” reported by the police has declined 35% since the state of emergency was imposed, Steward said Saturday, declaring that the government’s tough measures were already restoring law and order to the strife-torn country.

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But he acknowledged that four more blacks had been killed in the continuing “black-on-black violence,” a government term for black political feuding and for the murder of suspected police informers and others regarded as government collaborators.

Three men were killed in renewed fighting around the Crossroads squatter settlement outside Cape Town, and one died in continuing clashes in troubled Kwandebele, a tribal homeland northeast of Pretoria.

14 Dead Since Crackdown

This brought to 14 the number of people reported killed since the state of emergency was declared, including the two women who died in the Durban explosion Saturday.

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Eight blacks were wounded in clashes with police overnight Saturday, Steward reported, but he gave no details beyond saying that one was injured in Soweto.

A television cameraman, George De’Ath, 34, who was critically injured Tuesday in fighting at Crossroads, died Saturday morning in a Cape Town hospital. De’Ath, a South African working for a British television network, was attacked with machetes by members of the conservative Witdoeke black vigilante group. He was the first journalist to die in the two years of unrest here.

Despite requests from South African and foreign news media, the government has refused to provide detailed accounts of the security situation around the country. The information bureau, which is the only official source for news of unrest under regulations of the state of emergency, maintains that full and prompt disclosure of facts is not in the government’s interests.

Numbers Not Disclosed

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Steward again refused to say how many people have been detained since a crackdown began early Thursday under the state of emergency. Some reports place the number at more than 4,500.

State security requires that the names of detained people be kept secret, Steward said, and the government will enforce regulations barring publication of the names. Sources in the black community said that arrests were continuing but at a slower pace.

Meanwhile, the government’s critics continued to voice objections to the state of emergency.

John Kane-Berman, director of the respected and independent South African Institute of Race Relations, described the measure as “nothing more than a short-term expedient.”

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Blames Apartheid

“Whatever and whoever else may be fostering violence, the first, last and fundamental cause is apartheid itself,” Kane-Berman said in a statement Saturday. “Nothing short of the total eradication of this foul system will secure the country’s future.

“The government says negotiations for a peaceful solution for South Africa cannot go ahead until law and order is restored. But the real reason negotiations are not ahead is the government’s own obdurate desire to retain a monopoly of power for itself,” he added.

Jules Browde of Lawyers for Human Rights challenged the broad scope of the emergency regulations, which give the police and army virtual martial-law powers, and said that President Pieter W. Botha had probably exceeded his authority in promulgating them. Several court challenges on these and other grounds are under consideration, according to other lawyers.

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Athletes Issue Call

Several top athletes, heroes to a sports-loving public, appealed on Saturday for an immediate end to apartheid, South Africa’s system of racial separation, and for negotiations to “create a fair and just society and to restore peace in our divided land.”

In Bophuthatswana, a nominally independent tribal homeland, President Lucas Mangope declared that the crisis has reached “the brink of catastrophe” and called on South Africa’s government to end apartheid immediately.

“The cause of this suffering and death and destruction is the evil system of apartheid,” Mangope said. “The system, which forces the majority of the citizens of the Republic of South Africa to live in subservience, is also doomed to fail. At no time in history has man been content to live a life of subservience.”

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