South African judicial panel finds no governmental links to killings

July 07, 1992|By Jerelyn Eddings | Jerelyn Eddings,Johannesburg Bureau

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa -- A highly regarded judicial commission said yesterday that no evidence had been produced to support allegations linking deadly township violence to President F. W. De Klerk and officials of his state security forces.

The chairman of the Goldstone Commission of Inquiry into Public Violence did criticize the government for failing to adopt any of its recommendations to quell the violence in which thousands of blacks have died.

But Richard Goldstone, a respected judge who heads the commission on violence, delivered a severe blow to black activists who claim that the white government is to blame for the deaths. He said that no evidence supporting those charges has been presented to his panel.

"In the absence of such evidence, the commission considers that allegations to the effect that government and security force leaders are directly responsible for the current violence are unwise, unfair and dangerous," he said.

"They are dangerous particularly because they are likely to exacerbate the climate of violence and frustrate and retard attempts to curb violence," the judge added in a statement issued from the commission's office in Pretoria.

Police said yesterday that at least 29 more people died in weekend violence around the country.

Black political activists, led by the African National Congress, have stepped up charges of government complicity in violence since the massacre June 17 of at least 46 people in the township of Boipatong.

ANC President Nelson Mandela has blamed Mr. De Klerk for failure to control security forces, which have been accused of collaborating with the ANC's main rival, the Zulu-based Inkatha Freedom Party, in planning and executing the attack.

ANC spokesman Carl Niehaus said it was premature to exonerate police since the commission had not yet held full hearings on the Boipatong massacre. He said the ANC also believed it necessary to involve international monitors because of "constraints imposed on the Goldstone commission" by the government.

Mr. Goldstone promised to investigate thoroughly if he received any evidence of government or police complicity in township violence, but he expressed concern that his previous recommendations to curb police abuses have apparently been ignored by the government.

These include a call for workers' hostels, flash points of township violence, to be fenced off and tightly monitored by police and a recommendation against allowing people to carry weapons in public.

The commission warned that ignoring its recommendations "can only be calculated to diminish if not destroy the credibility and effectiveness not only of the commission but also of the government."

Police spokesman Capt. Craig Kotze welcomed the Goldstone statement about linkage between the government and violence. He said that previous recommendations of the commission were being given "full attention."

Though several Boipatong residents have told political leaders and reporters they witnessed police complicity in the massacre, no statements have been made to police or to the Goldstone commission.

ANC regional leader Tokyo Sexwale told the commission last week that residents would not cooperate with police because of "profound mistrust of the police and security forces."

He said that the residents also had reservations about the Goldstone commission, which was appointed last year by Mr. de Klerk to investigate the violence and which is only empowered to make recommendations to Mr. de Klerk.

"In fact, giving evidence here is perceived as the same as giving evidence to the police," said Mr. Sexwale, who noted that witnesses had disappeared or been killed in the past after cooperating with police.

Black anger over the violence, and especially over the Boipatong killings, led the ANC to walk out of talks with the government aimed at creating a new democratic government to replace the apartheid system.

Since the talks collapsed on June 25, ANC and governmental officials have engaged in a war of words that has made it difficult for either side to return to the negotiating table.

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