Inquiry into South African violence blames black groups ANC, Inkatha

May 28, 1992|By Jerelyn Eddings | Jerelyn Eddings,Johannesburg Bureau

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa -- A special commission on the bloody warfare in South Africa's black townships blamed two major black political groups yesterday and virtually dismissed charges of police complicity.

Judge Richard Goldstone, who held four months of hearings on violence, said that others might have been involved, but that primary responsibility rested with the African National Congress and the Zulu-based Inkatha Freedom Party.

"The commission has no doubt that the primary cause of the violence in all of these areas is the political battle between supporters of the African National Congress and the Inkatha Freedom Party," he said in a report to Parliament.

The findings were welcomed by police officials. They said they felt vindicated by the report from the respected judge, who has a reputation for independence.

The ANC, led by Nelson Mandela, has repeatedly accused police of fueling the violence in black townships and Mr. Mandela has charged that President F. W. de Klerk does not put a stop to it because he does not value black lives.

Responding to Mr. Mandela's latest salvo, Law and Order Minister Hernus Kriel, South Africa's top police official, said yesterday that "the honeymoon is over" with Mr. Mandela.

"It can be expected that in the future there will be reaction against uninformed attacks on the government and especially on the state president," Mr. Kriel said.

Relations between the ANC and Mr. de Klerk's white-minority government are at their lowest point in months, and the issue of violence, which has claimed more than 5,000 lives since the beginning of 1990, is a contributing factor to that condition.

Negotiations among 19 political groups, in which the ANC and government are the major players, broke down two weeks ago as the parties sought to reach agreement on guidelines for drafting a new constitution that is supposed to transform South Africa from white rule to a non-racist democracy.

The problem is a difference in goals and constituencies between the two heavyweights in the negotiations. The ANC, whose constituency is almost entirely black and dispossessed, wants to eliminate all vestiges of white privilege and redistribute the country's vast wealth.

The government, which maintained apartheid for four decades before Mr. de Klerk began dismantling it in 1990, wants to make certain that whites are not dominated and abused by a new black government. And it wants some of those assurances written into the constitution -- an idea rejected by the ANC.

The ANC's problem is that it has few remaining political weapons in its arsenal against the government, except for harsh rhetoric and threats of mass protests.

Mr. Goldstone said he found no evidence of a police conspiracy but his commission would continue to investigate.

He said there were indeed cases where individual policemen were involved in township violence, but "even if the allegations against members of the security forces prove to be justified, such misconduct would not have been possible but for the ongoing battle between the ANC and the Inkatha Freedom Party."

An ANC spokesman said the organization was "deeply concerned" by the report but would not comment in detail until after an emergency meeting to be held today.

An Inkatha spokesman, Suzanne Vos, said Mr. Goldstone seemed to have his hand "on the pulse of the townships." She said she had no objections to the report but a more complete response would come later.

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