Radical blacks in South Africa attacking white civilians in terrorist campaign

December 13, 1992|By Jerelyn Eddings | Jerelyn Eddings,Johannesburg Bureau

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa -- George Mpaya showed n doubts as he explained why radical blacks were targeting white civilians in a new nationwide terrorist campaign.

A serious young man with heavy rimmed glasses, he recited a list of "acceptable" reasons why white South Africans could be killed as "enemies of the people" -- meaning blacks who have suffered under apartheid.

"Those people are white," he said. "They are beneficiaries of the apartheid-settler-colonial regime."

In the jargon of the left, "settlers" are whites who settled on black land and oppressed its rightful owners. The radical Pan Africanist Congress has a slogan: "One settler. One bullet."

"They are not being attacked as whites per se," said the man, a 26-year-old leader of the PAC youth movement, which is even more militant than its parent. "They are attacked as defenders of the apartheid system."

Of course, he conceded, not every white person defends the apartheid system. Some have joined liberation movements and have gone to jail or the grave to fight it. But as far as militant leftists are concerned, those are too few to make a difference in the battle plans.

"Listen, here we speak of the large number of people," he said. "The innocent white is just a drop in the sea of water.

"There is no way we can punish ourselves by trying to search for one innocent person out of a million people."

On that theory, the PAC's military wing, the Azanian People's Liberation Army, says it has launched a war against whites in which everyone is a target except babies and small schoolchildren.

"White people form part and parcel of the oppressive regime, which makes them a legitimate target for APLA military operations," said a man who identified himself in a phone call to a news agency as Congo Jibril, deputy commander of the APLA.

The first "operations" came Nov. 28 in King William's Town and Dec. 2 in Queenstown, both in the eastern Cape region. Five people were killed and nearly 40 were injured in the two attacks.

Mr. Mpaya said that he is not a military man but that he supports the recent actions as necessary to liberate the people from apartheid.

In an interview at the stark downtown office of the Pan Africanist Student Organization, he seemed to express the thoughts of thousands of young blacks who are becoming angrier as the political reform process goes on without producing tangible benefits for them. Their number seems to be increasing as the process drags on.

They represent a threat to the pro-democracy negotiations, similar to the threat that militant whites were believed to pose before factions of the far right disintegrated into petty bickering among themselves.

Now, both sides have the capacity to disrupt the talks through overtly racist violence. The APLA has given new life to right-wing whites by giving them a new black menace to fight. Right-wingers, previously demoralized, are busy organizing /^ "home guard" units and threatening to strike back if any more whites are harmed.

"If we are not careful, we are going to have a race war and a calamitous situation in this country," said Chris Hani, leader of the South African Communist Party and an important member of the African National Congress.

He was chief of the ANC's military wing when that organization suspended its guerrilla campaign in 1990 in favor of negotiations.

But he and other older leaders who put away their guns are being rejected by radical young activists who think the country can be wrestled from whites only through the barrel of a gun.

"The reality of the South African situation is that we have got those who are benefiting from the apartheid settler rule, and we have got those who are suffering as a result of that system," said Mr. Mpaya, a student at the local technical college. "We are fighting a political battle, whereby everybody who has supported the opposite side automatically becomes the enemy of the African people."

Many people have questioned why the APLA, which was believed to be small and ineffectual, has launched such an operation just as the climate for negotiations seems to be improving.

The ANC and the government of President F.W. de Klerk are talking again after a long stalemate. Even PAC leaders, who had refused to join negotiations because it distrusted the government, had started meeting with government officials.

They appeared to be on the verge of joining the negotiations process, but after the eastern Cape attacks, Mr. de Klerk canceled a meeting with PAC leaders, saying they need to explain their position on this new spate of anti-white violence.

PAC leaders have tried to dodge questions about the APLA attacks, saying its army is based outside the country -- in Tanzania -- and isn't under the command of internal political leaders. There is little doubt that the new campaign has been a major embarrassment to the PAC because it shows a deep split among PAC members.

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