At least 268 blacks were killed in the Pietermaritzburg area of South Africa in 1987, with the vast majority dying in the last four months of the year, according to unofficial figures released Friday.
The death toll in South Africa's worst trouble spot was compiled by a church group monitoring the fast-rising tempo of black-against-black violence in the sprawl of shantytowns stretching west from the capital of Natal province lying along the Indian Ocean.
The final day of 1987 saw 115 blacks arrested and one house burned down but no deaths, according to the daily police bulletin on civil unrest issued Friday in Pretoria.
It was the first day since Christmas that no one died as a result of violence, which has been described by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, winner of the 1984 Nobel Peace Prize, as a ghastly spiral of revenge killings. Much of the violence stems from rivalry between the conservative Inkatha organization and the militant United Democratic Front coalition. Both oppose apartheid but disagree on strategy and methods.
Toll Up at Year's End
Police have not issued a death toll for 1987. But Peter Kerchhoff of the Pietermaritzburg Agency for Christian Social Awareness, which keeps track of the violence, said casualties rose dramatically in the last third of the year.
He said the January to August period was comparatively quiet, with a total of 50 deaths. Then in September 44 people were killed, October 49, November 50, and the provisional figure for December is 75.
December was expected to be a bad month because thousands of migrant workers came home on vacation, some to find homes burned or relatives killed, touching off retaliation.