S. Africa announces crackdown Mandela decries plan to quell townships

September 16, 1990|By Jerelyn Eddings | Jerelyn Eddings,Johannesburg Bureau of The Sun

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa -- South African police announced a major crackdown yesterday aimed at ending the surge of violence that has hit dozens of black townships throughout the country's industrial heartland.

The plan, Operation Iron Fist, was put into effect immediately. Police said they would send in reinforcements, set up roadblocks, equip police vehicles with machine guns and cordon off migrant worker hostels that have been the focus of much of the violence.

They also said they might impose a curfew in the strife-torn areas, where fighting has been most intense at night.

Anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela immediately criticized the plan, saying that "some of the measures leave much to be desired and will create more problems."

Iron Fist was unveiled one day after Mr. Mandela said a covert force was orchestrating the trouble in an attempt to destabilize the country and derail peace talks under way between the government and the African National Congress, of which he is deputy president.

He said President F.W. de Klerk would announce a comprehensive plan next week to try to track down the sinister force behind the bloody outbreaks.

Police said the crackdown was in response to Mr. Mandela's repeated calls for the government to use its power to put a stop to the violence, in which almost 800 people have been killed since Aug. 12.

"If Mr. Mandela wants an iron fist, we will give him an iron fist," said Maj. Gen. Gerrit Erasmus, police commissioner for the Witwatersrand region, which includes Johannesburg. He unveiled the plan at a news conference in Pretoria.

Mr. Mandela was dissatisfied with the plan on several counts, however.

At a hastily called news conference at his home in the black township of Soweto, Mr. Mandela said the police measures were "not intended to deal effectively with the situation. They have not addressed the situation as it affects blacks but as it affects whites."

He said the measures appeared to be in response to the recent killings of two white policemen and gave police officers "a license to kill our people indiscriminately."

Mr. Mandela said the crackdown in the townships was not part of the plan President de Klerk had discussed with him at their emergency meeting Friday. No one discussed the police measures with him, he said.

The black leader also complained that police had handled the township violence badly so far and said the newly announced measures did nothing to allay suspicions about security force involvement in the fighting.

The ANC has charged that security forces -- which include policeand army personnel -- are collaborating with Zulu vigilantes to cause trouble in the townships.

Defense Minister Magnus Malan accused Mr. Mandela of specializing in making charges without providing proof. In a speech to a political group yesterday, he said the black leader should submit evidence of his charges to the police in order to help with the investigations of township violence.

The townships appeared quiet yesterday after a turbulent week in which several townships erupted in renewed fighting between supporters of the ANC and supporters of the Zulu-based Inkatha movement.

The violence spread to Johannesburg this week, as gangs of youths drove through the city Wednesday shooting people at random. The next day, 26 people were massacred by a gang that boarded a commuter train bound for Soweto and shot and hacked passengers at random.

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