Fear of violence, threats by government put off march in S. African homeland

October 08, 1992|By Jerelyn Eddings | Jerelyn Eddings,Johannesburg Bureau

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa -- The African National Congress put off plans yesterday to march on the black homeland of Bophuthatswana amid threats of violence and a warning that the South African government would stop the demonstration.

The march, planned for tomorrow, would have been the first major demonstration since 28 ANC protesters were gunned down by government troops in the black homeland of Ciskei on Sept. 7.

ANC spokesman Carl Niehaus said the organization was "walking a very difficult tightrope" between supporters who wanted to demonstrate and black homeland authorities who promise a repeat of the Ciskei bloodshed.

Bophuthatswana's top army official, Maj. Gen. Jack Turner, said Tuesday that his forces would "do whatever we have to do to prevent this country from being destabilized. We have the capacity."

He said the ANC wanted to overthrow the homeland government, and if it tried, "People will get hurt and people will get killed. There will be confrontation. That is for sure."

President F. W. de Klerk also threatened this week to prevent marches that seemed destined to end in violence, saying he was "duty bound" to take such action. He also lashed out at the ANC for continuing to plan marches and demonstrations despite the organization's promise to reconsider its protest campaigns in light of recent government concessions on other issues.

"South Africans are sick and tired of their inflammatory speeches and their arrogant intolerance of political opponents," he said. Mr. de Klerk was speaking to a meeting of his National Party and apparently was taking a tough line against the ANC in response to criticism that he had given away too much to the black political organization.

Last month, he agreed to ANC demands to release South Africa's remaining political prisoners and to erect fences around migrant worker areas that had been used as staging grounds for attacks on pro-ANC communities.

Bophuthatswana, like Ciskei, is a creation of apartheid. It is designated an "independent homeland," which means that South Africa considers it a separate black country even though it is located within the borders of South Africa and consists of 13 fragments of land scattered across South Africa.

Ten tribal homelands were set up under apartheid to deprive blacks of their South African citizenship, but South Africa is the only country that regards them as independent nations.

Mr. Niehaus, the ANC spokesman, said ANC supporters in the homeland are demanding action against repression in Bophuthatswana, where the ANC still is not legal even though South Africa lifted its ban on it 30 months ago.

"The people who really want to march are our supporters in the homeland," he said. "I think that's an indication of their feelings about the government and an indication of their frustration."

He said the march had been postponed but would definitely take place later, after the ANC had more time to organize it and take all possible precautions against violence.

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