S. Africa Leaders OKd Lethal Force Against Protesters in ‘70s
South Africa’s white minority former government approved plans to step up the killing of anti-apartheid demonstrators in a bid to crush black revolt 20 years ago, according to newly released Cabinet minutes.
Then-Minister of Justice and Police Jimmy Kruger recommended the policy at a Cabinet meeting in August 1976, the director of the state archive, Marie Olivier, said Friday.
The black student riots broke out in Soweto township in June 1976 and rapidly spread to most other parts of the country.
According to the minutes released Thursday, Kruger, who has since died, proposed “that this movement must be broken,” and he believed that “the police should perhaps act more drastically and with a heavier hand, which would result in more deaths.”
The minutes were written in Afrikaans and stamped with the words, “Approved said.”
At least 600 black demonstrators are believed to have been killed by police during several months of rioting in 1976, though some estimates put the figure higher.
The protests, originally sparked by government efforts to force blacks to use Afrikaans in school, were a major landmark in resistance to minority rule.
Eventually the movement climaxed in the victory of Nelson Mandela’s African National Congress in historic all-race elections in 1994.