S. Africa Places Curfew on Cape Province

Times Staff Writer

Police imposed night-time curfews Thursday on dozens of black townships in South Africa’s eastern Cape province in an apparent attempt to prevent the communities there from organizing a stronger resistance to the week-old national state of emergency.

Brigadier Ernest Schnetler, the regional police commander, ordered all blacks in 13 magisterial districts, including the industrial centers of Port Elizabeth and Uitenhage, to remain in their homes from 9 p.m. to 4 a.m.

Issued under the sweeping emergency regulations that give virtual martial law powers to the police, Schnelter’s order appears to be aimed at countering the nightly meetings of hundreds of street committees and other local organizations that now hold political power in most of the area’s black townships.


The curfew, barring people from the streets and all public places, also gives the police a firmer basis for countering the repeated ambushes of security force patrols in the ghetto townships by groups armed with firebombs and, increasingly, with rifles. In addition, non-residents, whether black or white, are now barred entirely from entering the townships.

“Since we are not supposed to be out of our houses, the orders could very well be ‘shoot to kill,’ and under the state of emergency we have no legal recourse, no way to punish the persons who gave the order and who fired the shots,” a black lawyer in Port Elizabeth commented Thursday evening. “To me, these regulations mean the crackdown is about to become heavier and harsher just as we were beginning to reorganize.”

Schnetler also prohibited not only the wearing but the possession of political T-shirts and other items bearing the names or insignia of 47 different community organizations, student groups and local “action committees.”

Another new regulation bars everyone but pupils and employees from area schools, effectively preventing parents from walking their children to their classrooms or the schools from being used as community centers.

Three More Killed

Meanwhile, authorities reported that three more people were killed in the country’s continuing civil unrest, bringing to 48 the number of deaths since President Pieter W. Botha declared the state of emergency a week ago to reduce the violence.

One victim was a white man, identified as Lodewyk Vlooh, of Uitenhage, who had been missing since late last week. His charred body was discovered in the black township of Kwanobuhle, outside the city, according to the government information bureau. The circumstances of his death are not known.


Police also found the burned bodies of two black men in Dennilton in the Kwandebele tribal homeland northeast of Pretoria. Kwandebele has been the scene of continued fighting for the past six months over plans to make the homeland “independent.”

Strikes continued to spread among black workers at retail stores, particularly supermarket and discount chains, in protest over the widespread detention of their labor union leaders, ranging from national officials to shop stewards, under the emergency regulations.

Several leading businessmen have asked to meet urgently with Louis le Grange, the hard-line minister of law and order, to discuss the union leaders’ detentions, which they fear will undermine stable labor relations here. Government spokesmen appeared perplexed by the strikes and said the unions’ challenge to the state of emergency was still being evaluated.

More than 60 major supermarkets and discount stores in Transvaal province have now been struck by members of the Commercial, Catering and Allied Workers Union, and a variety of factories and commercial farms have also been affected.

Several thousand strikers are involved in sit-ins, while hundreds of others gathered at entrances to prevent customers from entering.

“The situation is chaotic, with little rational dialogue taking place between workers and management,” a labor relations specialist said. “There is no coherent strategy in the strikes, and negotiations with massed groups of leaderless workers are almost impossible.”


Worker demands include several political issues, among them an end to the state of emergency and the release of detainees.

“All efforts to reach any union officials have failed,” Michael Wright, personnel manager of the Central News Agency, a major retail chain, said as one branch after another closed Thursday. “We do not know where they are. . . . Our workers say their leaders are all in prison and that without them they will not work and will not talk.”

Despite the labor unrest, government spokesmen contended Thursday that the state of emergency is continuing to reduce the scope and degree of civil strife nationwide.

But severe restrictions imposed on reporters under emergency regulations made it impossible to verify this claim.

Yet the government’s accounts of developments were shown again Thursday to be incomplete and sometimes just plain wrong. David W. Steward, chief of the government’s information bureau, acknowledged despite previous denials that a 4-year-old girl had been hit by birdshot in Soweto, outside Johannesburg, when police dispersed a group of youths Monday with shotgun fire.

(In London, according to the Associated Press, the liberal newspaper, the Guardian, reported that South African security forces shot and killed three children Monday and wounded more than 30 after the youngsters stoned one of their vehicles in the black township of Zwide near Port Elizabeth.


(The bureau of information issued a brief statement saying, “The content of the article is false.”

(The Guardian said it is impossible to verify the account because of restrictions placed on the media. The newspaper said its story was based on information supplied by witnesses to “a local group monitoring the emergency.”)

Steward was also forced to admit, again despite earlier assertions that the reports were “devoid of all truth,” that police had ordered black residents outside Pretoria to stay inside their homes Monday.

In Parliament, Foreign Minister Roelof F. (Pik) Botha said that South Africa should resign itself to increased U.S. sanctions although he doubts that the radical measures adopted by the House of Representatives requiring all U.S. companies to sell their holdings here and end trade would ever become law.

In Washington, according to Reuters, the Reagan Administration said it opposes the House bill but that the vote sends the right message to South Africa’s white-led minority government.

“It reflects the universal repulsion that Americans feel for apartheid as well as American abhorrence at the levels of violence and repression in South Africa,” State Department spokesman Charles Redman told reporters.