11 Blacks Die in Soweto Unrest : Security Prevented More Violence, S. Africa Says
The government today said 11 blacks were killed during and after a nationwide general strike Monday marking the 10th anniversary of the Soweto uprising, but claimed its security clampdown prevented widespread disturbances.
“Nowhere was there mass unrest,” government spokesman Leon Mellet said. “The incidents of violence were isolated.”
Millions of blacks stayed away from their jobs to mark the anniversary. Hundreds of companies and stores closed, and few blacks were on the streets of Johannesburg.
This morning, black workers returned to their jobs in large numbers. The Putco bus service, which did not operate in the Johannesburg area Monday, reported that about 80% of its 670,000 daily commuters were back.
Terry Waite, a special envoy of the Archbishop of Canterbury, arrived in South Africa today to investigate reports that Anglican ministers were among the nearly 2,000 activists believed held since the government imposed a nationwide state of emergency last Thursday.
Waite and Bishop Desmond Tutu, the country’s leading anti-apartheid activist, toured Soweto, the black township southwest of Johannesburg where, according to church officials, an Anglican Church community center was firebombed Monday.
The two men also planned to attend the treason trial of 22 activists accused of inciting rioting in September, 1984.
The government, which had banned journalists from entering Soweto on Monday, today took 20 reporters on a tour of the township of 1.5 million people. The reporters, accompanied by police, said they observed no unrest. The two mesh-protected police buses did not stop.
Mellet, at a news conference in Pretoria, said four of the 11 blacks killed between daybreak Monday and daybreak today were shot by security forces, while the others were believed to have been killed by other blacks.
He said the worst violence occurred Monday in the eastern part of Cape province where security forces killed three blacks after blacks allegedly attacked police patrols with firebombs.
Mellet said four of the blacks believed killed by other blacks had been burned to death and the other three were shot.
Excluding recent battles among blacks in squatter camps near Cape Town, it was one of the highest 24-hour death tolls in the last two months.
At least 42 people have been killed since the state of emergency was imposed. Of the victims, 39 were blacks.
Mellet said the extensive security operation, which was accompanied by tough restrictions on news reporting, thwarted what he said were plans by the African National Congress guerrilla movement to create “mass disruption.”
“It is now more clear than ever that the people of South Africa reject the ANC and its violence,” he said. “However, the ANC will now become more desperate. For this reason, the security forces will continue to take the necessary measures to maintain law and order.”