ANC should share some blame for massacre, critics say

September 09, 1992|By New York Times News Service

BISHO, South Africa -- Nelson Mandela deplored the killing yesterday of more than two dozen supporters of the African National Congress (ANC) in a protest march against the South African black homeland of Ciskei, but the congress itself was accused of bearing some responsibility.

Most of the blame for the killings was directed at Ciskei's military ruler, Brig. Joshua Oupa Gqozo.

But criticism of the ANC was also voiced by white sources normally sympathetic to the ANC.

ANC officials confirmed yesterday that a sudden charge by about 100 of its supporters into forbidden Ciskei territory had been approved by the highest leaders of the anti-apartheid movement, gambling that the army would refuse to fire.

The aim of the march was to occupy the Bisho city center until the marchers succeeded in ousting Brigadier Gqozo.

Brigadier Gqozo insisted that his troops fired in self-defense, although even some of the Ciskei soldiers involved said they had seen no firing from the marchers' side.

Monday's march was the first time that the congress had resorted to a kind of mass defiance aimed not just at winning concessions but at toppling authority.

"In their calculations, they must have realized that death was one of the possibilities. They also have a degree of blameworthiness," said Keith Mathee, a local human rights lawyer and a leader in the Democratic Party.

The Star of Johannesburg, a major newspaper that sides with the ANC more often than with the government, said in an editorial that the congress "must have decided that the blood price was worth paying," and it condemned this decision as "political extremism of the most cynical kind."

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