Replying to charges by Garden Grove evangelist Robert Schuller, a leader of a South African opposition organization said Wednesday that it is the white minority regime in Pretoria, not his own group, that practices terrorism.
Alfred Nzo, general secretary of the banned African National Congress, the largest multiracial opposition organization, told a session of the annual meeting of Reformed Church in America that the government of P.W. Botha has “resorted to unprecedented brute force and state terrorism to assert its right to rule the country.”
Group Founded in 1912
The ANC, Nzo said, represents “the only sane alternative to the policies of genocide pursued by the apartheid regime,” and the group’s prestige “has never been higher inside South Africa and internationally.”
Nzo’s keynote address at the Doubletree Hotel in Orange had been scheduled on the grounds of the Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove, where all of the general synod’s others sessions are being held this week.
But less than two weeks before the yearly gathering began, Schuller, founder of the 10,000-member congregation and host of the “Hour of Power” television show, informed the denomination’s executive council that because the ANC was infiltrated by “violent elements,” Nzo’s address would not be permitted at the Crystal Cathedral.
Founded in 1912, the ANC eschewed violence until after 69 unarmed blacks were killed in 1960 during a peaceful demonstration. Thereafter, the organization was declared illegal and a military wing, called “Spear of the Nation,” was established. In the last 18 months it has been increasingly active, with guerrilla attacks reported two or three times a week. The South African government has charged that the organization is engaging in terrorism and on May 21 attacked three neighboring countries it accused of providing support for the attacks.
At a press conference following his address, Nzo said there had been no change in the ANC’s policy of striking only military and police targets inside South Africa. He said he had no word of any opposition group taking responsibility for a car bombing that killed two women in the city of Durban earlier this week.
Schuller Trip Canceled
Following Nzo’s speech, a spokesman for Schuller said the evangelist stood by his decision and had no further comment, but added that Schuller had canceled a trip to South Africa scheduled for later this summer.
Although the ANC is not included on the U.S. State Department’s list of terrorist organizations, officials earlier this week rebuffed an overture from an Nzo associate for meetings “at the appropriate level” in Washington. According to State Department spokesman Charles Redman, the department maintains regular contacts with the ANC.
Security for Wednesday’s address was tighter than at previous sessions, with badges required to enter the room. Half a dozen men with earpieces who appeared to be police officers were stationed around the room.
Addressing about 500 delegates to the meeting as “dear brothers and sisters,” Nzo described recent actions by the South African government as “an attempt to preempt the successful commemoration of the 10th anniversary of the Soweto uprising, which was marked with a show of unprecedented unity as millions of our people stayed away from work as a mark of remembrance.”
Nzo thanked the delegates for providing the opportunity “to present our case for the effective isolation of the apartheid regime,” calling it “an important contribution aimed at the peaceful solution of the problem of racial discrimination and the granting of the inalienable right to self-determination.”
Wearing a yellow button that read “Free Nelson Mandela” (imprisoned head of the ANC), Nzo said his invitation to speak to the church group “should be viewed in the background of concerted efforts by the apartheid regime to isolate our organization.”
Synod delegates listened quietly to Nzo’s speech and applauded at its conclusion.
Nzo, a former government health inspector, said that “nothing short of the imposition of comprehensive, mandatory sanctions will bring about the effective censure of the apartheid regime. Constructive engagement policies serve to encourage the violence of the apartheid regime against our people and the neighboring states.”
‘Fearful of Publicity’
He said the stringent censorship regulations invoked by the government along with the state of emergency represented “a very thick veil of secrecy” imposed by a regime “fearful of the glare of international publicity. . . . This ban on publicity is enough proof that the regime has a lot to hide,” he said.
The Botha regime, he said, “has totally lost the initiative and the ability to solve the problems of our country.”
The central issue his country faces, Nzo said, “is the question of transference of political power to the black oppressed majority. Nothing short of this will resolve the crisis in South Africa.” Calls for reform, he said, are seen “as an attempt to prolong the apartheid system under a new guise.”
The ANC’s frequently stated position, Nzo said, is that “apartheid cannot be reformed but must be totally eliminated.”