More die in South Africa despite curfew, arms ban

May 10, 1991|By Jerelyn Eddings | Jerelyn Eddings,Johannesburg Bureau of The Sun

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa -- Hundreds of people clashed on the streets of a black township south of Johannesburg yesterday, hours after the government imposed a nighttime curfew and banned the carrying of dangerous weapons in troubled townships.

At least six people were killed in running gunbattles between supporters of rival black political groups in Tembisa, a township about 20 miles south of here that provides a black labor pool for the white city of Germiston.

Police said the fighting started when supporters of Nelson Mandela's African National Congress marched on a migrant-worker hostel that housed supporters of the Zulu-based Inkatha movement.

Both sides were heavily armed with guns, spears, axes and clubs, weapons banned the previous day when the government announced a new police campaign designed to curb violence in the black townships. Police said that they tried to intervene by firing tear gas and shotguns and that armored tanks were stationed between the two groups of advancing men, who continued to fire on each other.

The fighting took place as President Frederik W. de Klerk announced that he had made progress in his talks this week with Mr. Mandela, whose organization had threatened to boycott power-sharing negotiations that are supposed to result in a new democratic constitution for South Africa.

The ANC had urged Mr. de Klerk to ban the carrying of dangerous weapons in public, to get rid of the all-male hostels, which have been the flash points for much of the violence, and to dismiss his Cabinet ministers in charge of the army and police. The ANC had set a May 9 deadline for action on its demands, but the deadline passed without the organization's carrying out its threat to walk out of negotiations.

A spokesman for the anti-apartheid organization said its executive committee would meet to discuss Mr. de Klerk's latest proposals, which were presented to Mr. Mandela in an urgent meeting before the deadline arrived.

In a statement, Mr. de Klerk said that he and Mr. Mandela had made progress Wednesday and that their advisers met again to finish hammering out an agreement. He said that they "achieved a broad consensus on most issues; however, we have agreed that some issues need to be discussed further on an urgent basis."

Mr. de Klerk said his immediate concern was the escalating violence in the country and appealed to all South Africans "to continue to find ways of removing the curse of violence from our society."

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