Mandela, de Klerk seek halt to tribal violence

May 09, 1991|By Jerelyn Eddings | Jerelyn Eddings,Johannesburg Bureau of The Sun

PRETORIA, South Africa -- South Africa's top black and white leaders met yesterday against a backdrop of escalating violence and finger pointing to try to prevent the country from sliding into political chaos.

A Johannesburg-based news agency reported that African National Congress leader Nelson Mandela phoned a group of followers and told them President F. W. de Klerk had agreed to the ANC's top demands.

The demands included a ban on dangerous weapons at public events and a restructuring of the migrant-worker hostels that have been the focal point of much of the township fighting. The ANC also has called on the government to convert the all-male hostels, which resemble army barracks, to family living quarters.

Mr. de Klerk, speaking at a banquet later, said he and Mr. Mandela had made progress but still had a number of issues to resolve.

The meeting came the day before an ANC deadline for the government to curb the violence in black townships and dismiss the two Cabinet ministers responsible for the army and police.

Mr. de Klerk has refused to dismiss the two ministers. One of them, Law and Order Minister Adriaan Vlok, announced yesterday a tough new police campaign that seemed designed to meet demands to control the violence.

Mr. Vlok said the government would deploy additional police officers and army troops in troubled townships in an effort to restore peace. He said they would put up roadblocks, conduct search operations for weapons and enforce night curfews in several violence-torn townships across South Africa's industrial heartland.

"These measures should be seen as evidence of the government's commitment to bringing peace to these troubled areas in order to facilitate the negotiation process," Mr. Vlok said in a statement.

Mr. Vlok's new get-tough campaign may not be well received by the ANC, which has criticized similar police measures in the past.

The ANC has called on Mr. de Klerk to ban the carrying of weapons in the townships, where armies of men have marched through the streets during the current violence carrying spears, clubs and guns. It has denounced the government for failure to disarm the supporters of Zulu leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi, the ANC's main black rival, while seizing arms from ANC backers.

Both Mr. Buthelezi and Mr. Mandela have accused the police of showing favoritism to the other side. Each side blames the other for the violence, and Mr. de Klerk has charged the ANC with trying to use the violence to score political points.

But in an effort to reach an agreement on weapons before the ANC deadline, Mr. de Klerk held a three-hour meeting with Mr. Buthelezi on Tuesday night. Mr. de Klerk later said his TTC government would "definitely take steps with regard to the problem of dangerous weapons," but he gave no further details.

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