2 Apartheid Foes Captured in S. Africa

Times Staff Writer

Two leading officials of the United Democratic Front were captured by security police early Wednesday, further crippling the anti-apartheid coalition, most of whose leaders have already been detained, jailed or charged with crimes under South Africa’s severe security laws.

Mohammed Valli, the acting general secretary, and Murphy Morobe, the front’s spokesman, were reportedly detained in a raid before dawn on a house in Port Elizabeth, where they had gone Monday for a regional meeting.

Both men, key figures in the anti-apartheid movement, have long been sought by the security police and have been operating more or less underground--making rare public appearances and traveling throughout the country to keep the front alive during South Africa’s state of emergency, now in its 14th month.


Meanwhile, in Cape Town, a bomb exploded in a bathroom shortly after midnight at the city’s international airport, causing extensive damage, according to police. A second bomb was found, also in a washroom, and defused before it exploded. A late-night flight had just departed, and no injuries were reported.

Three such “limpet mines,” originally designed for underwater sabotage, have exploded in Cape Town in the last week, damaging a residential area for military officers, a gasoline station and the airport. Four others have been discovered and defused. A homemade bomb was hurled at a police patrol earlier this week, and a grenade was thrown at the home of a policeman Tuesday.

The explosives were all of Soviet manufacture, according to police, who speculated that they had been placed by members of the outlawed African National Congress, which for the last 25 years has waged an armed struggle against continued white-minority rule.

After the explosion at Cape Town’s Daniel F. Malan Airport, transport officials said they are increasing security there to protect travelers against any further bombings.

Series of Unsettling Events

Cape Town has been tense following the death earlier this month of an African National Congress guerrilla as police attempted to arrest him, further violence during his funeral last weekend and now a series of disciplinary hearings for teachers who have supported United Democratic Front activities over the last three years.

Krish Naidoo, an attorney for the front, said in Johannesburg that police advised him that Mohammed Valli and Murphy Morobe were formally detained under South Africa’s emergency regulations that permit them to hold anyone without charges for 30 days and, with approval of the minister of law and order, to extend the detention indefinitely.


Valli, 30, had been released from detention only in April after a court challenge. Morobe, 33, was arrested under the earlier state of emergency, but he eluded the police with such success over the last year that within the anti-apartheid movement he had become known as the “black pimpernel.”

With only a few of the front’s top officials able to operate through the state of emergency, Valli and Morobe had assumed increasingly important roles within the group, a coalition of 700 anti-apartheid groups with more than 3 million members. Of the 3,000 people believed to be detained at present, as many as two-thirds are local, regional and national officials of the front and its affiliates, according to the Detainees’ Parents Support Committee, a civil-rights monitoring group.

Although the UDF’s two co-presidents, Albertina Sisulu and Archie Gumede, are free after their acquittal on treason charges, only Treasurer Azhar Cachalia, of all its other national officers and executive committee members, is not in hiding, detention, prison or exile.

Popo Molefe, the front’s general secretary, and Patrick Lekota, its publicity secretary, are among those accused of treason, subversion, murder and arson in a trial already more than 18 months old that arose from a surge of political violence in September, 1984.

A police spokesman in Pretoria declined to comment on the reported detentions of Valli and Morobe or the possible reasons for them, but other officials renewed previous government charges that the United Democratic Front functions as the legal, political arm of the African National Congress and has been responsible for causing much of the civil unrest of the last three years.