Black activists to keep pressure on South Africa ANC claims success as strike ends

August 05, 1992|By Jerelyn Eddings | Jerelyn Eddings,Johannesburg Bureau

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa -- Anti-government activists threatened yesterday to keep pressure on the South African government with marches and sit-ins after a two-day nationwide strike by millions of workers.

The strike ended yesterday with the African National Congress claiming "resounding" success in demonstrating black discontent with the pace of political reforms. But the government of President F. W. de Klerk maintained that workers had been coerced to stay at home in a strike that added to the country's tensions.

Authorities said at least 17 people were killed in violence on the second day of the strike, for a two-day death toll of 30. But it was unclear how many deaths were related to the work stoppage, because dozens of violent deaths occur in black townships every week.

The ANC, which sponsored the strike along with the South African Communist Party and the Congress of South African Trade Unions, estimated that at least 4 million people stayed home Monday and yesterday. It said the number appeared to be higher the second day.

"We are satisfied that the level of support the general strike received is a true reflection of the mood and temper of the majority of South Africans," said Cyril Ramaphosa, one of the ANC's top officials.

Johan Liebenberg, a business leader with the South African Committee on Labor Affairs, said that the strike was a clear success for the ANC but that "it would be a gross exaggeration to say the stay-away brought the South African economy to a halt."

ANC President Nelson Mandela plans to lead a march on the seat of government, the Union Buildings, in Pretoria today to keep the pressure on Mr. de Klerk to negotiate an end to white-minority rule.

Mr. de Klerk has said that his government will not be pressured but that it has every intention of negotiating a new constitution in which whites will share power with blacks.

Constitutional negotiations broke down in June over the issue of special protections for the white minority under a new government.

The ANC is now trying to use the force of black numbers -- its strongest weapon -- to get the government back to the negotiating table on different terms. It says it believes that the government is not serious about ceding power to the majority.

Mr. de Klerk says he is willing to give up power, but only under conditions that will ensure that whites are not "dominated" by the black majority.

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