Tambo Admits He Has Few Facts About S. African Confrontation
Oliver Tambo acknowledged Wednesday that his black South African nationalist movement, like the rest of the world, has little information about the exact nature of the confrontation between blacks and security forces during Monday’s general strike in South Africa.
“Our lines of communication have been very poor indeed,” Tambo, president of the outlawed African National Congress, told reporters at a news conference in Paris. “I think in the nature of things it will take time for information to filter through.”
Tambo had told the U.N. Conference on Sanctions Against South Africa in Paris on Tuesday that “some reports, yet to be confirmed, point to massive slaughter in South Africa” on Monday. The strike was called by blacks to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the government’s suppression of an uprising by students in Soweto, the black city 10 miles southwest of Johannesburg.
Tambo’s allusion to massive slaughter attracted a good deal of attention in view of the South African ban on all independent reporting by of the racial strife in that country. Reporters are prohibited from using all but the official government version of events. The government said Tuesday that 11 blacks died in confrontations during and after the strike.
Asked about the reports of slaughter, Tambo told the news conference, “I would have hoped that by now it would have been possible to get the information.” But he said that he still has no confirmation of the reports, which he said came from the Federal Progressive Party, the white opposition in the South African Parliament.
“Since it emanated from the Federal Progressive Party,” he went on, “we thought it would have some authenticity. But I regret we have been unable to follow it up.”
Despite his lack of information, Tambo made it clear that he does not believe the government’s version of events. “If you place a soldier at the front of every door to shoot everyone who comes out,” he said, “the chances are that they will not come out. But if they do come out, and the soldiers shoot, no one will know about it.”
For this reason, Tambo went on, “everything they (the South African authorities) say and everything they do must be suspect.”
The U.N. conference that brought Tambo to Paris is being boycotted by South Africa’s three main trading partners--the United States, Britain, and West Germany. Asked if this raised questions about the effectiveness of the conference, Tambo replied that it is possible that the United States, Britain and West Germany “would turn a deaf ear” to the calls for sanctions.
“If they do,” he went on, ". . . they miss one more chance of matching their words of condemnation with action. They give one more proof . . . of their commitment to the maintenance of apartheid in one way or another.”
Jesse Jackson, the U.S. civil rights leader, met with French President Francois Mitterrand on Wednesday and proposed a summit of Western leaders to study the South Africa crisis . “Mitterrand was very favorable to the idea,” Jackson said. There was no official comment on Jackson’s proposal from the president’s office.