Mandela says S. Africa links 'hidden hand' to violence

September 15, 1990|By Jerelyn Eddings | Jerelyn Eddings,Johannesburg Bureau of The Sun

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa -- The South African government is convinced that recent outbreaks of violence have been orchestrated by a "hidden hand" intent on destroying the country's 7-month-old political reform process and are not just black-on-black clashes, Nelson Mandela said yesterday.

The black nationalist leader said that he met with President F.W. de Klerk after the latest attacks in Johannesburg and that the president outlined a comprehensive government plan to end the violence and track down the forces responsible for the assaults.

Mr. Mandela said Mr. de Klerk was convinced that the violence, which has included random shootings of innocent civilians, is not a black-on-black confrontation or a clash between rival black political or tribal groups.

"There is some hidden hand here which the government intends to track down," Mr. Mandela told reporters. He said Mr. de Klerk "also is of the opinion that behind this carnage are people who want to destabilize and derail the peace process."

Mr. Mandela also said he expected Mr. de Klerk to make a statement soon about his plan to end the violence.

The latest assaults included the massacre of 26 passengers Thursday evening on a commuter train bound from Johannesburg to black townships.

Witnesses said a group of men boarded the train at a station in Johannesburg and went from car to car shooting passengers with assault rifles and stabbing them with spears.

More than 100 passengers were injured.

Victims said the train became the scene of horrible carnage as the men went on a systematic rampage in which they killed people without exchanging any words.

"They started to shoot us with guns and hit us with pangas [machetes]," said Solomon Manganye, 31. "They never talked."

The train massacre was one of several gruesome attacks this week on blacks in and around Johannesburg. Several people were killed Wednesday in random shootings at bus and taxi stands. On Tuesday, a squatter camp was virtually flattened during a heavily armed attack in the black township of Thokoza.

Thousands of terrorized residents evacuated the area and were living in churches and hospitals.

Mr. Mandela said the attacks, especially the train killings, were efficient operations that suggested a campaign of terror aimed at destabilizing the country.

"As far as we are concerned, what is happening now is the work of highly professional killers, people who are highly trained," he said. "The efficient manner in which they execute their crimes shows that we are not here dealing with amateurs."

He said the killers' tactics were very similar to those used by the Renamo rebel movement in neighboring Mozambique in its campaign to destabilize that country. Renamo -- the Mozambican Resistance Movement -- was originally formed by the white government of Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and later received financial and military assistance from South Africa.

"We are actually having in this country the beginning of a Renamo movement, people whose interest is to destroy the infrastructure of the country, to kill and maim and to spread fear among the masses of the people," he said.

Mr. Mandela said he welcomed Mr. de Klerk's statement that the violence was being orchestrated by anti-reform forces. Previously, the government had described the recent violence as tribal or factional fighting between supporters of the ANC and the Zulu-based Inkatha movement.

Before this week, the ANC had charged that the violence stemmed from police collaboration with Inkatha vigilantes, a charge that was denied by Inkatha leaders.

Mr. Mandela said yesterday that he continued to believe Inkatha was being used but that he did not know who was instigating the violence.

"We have our own suspicions," he said. "But what is clear is that what has been happening in Mozambique is now happening in South Africa."

More than 700 people have died in the recent spate of violence, which began Aug. 12 in the township of Thokoza, south of Johannesburg. Most of the violence has been confined to the townships and has involved bloody clashes between ANC and Inkatha supporters.

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