Blacks mourning Hani vent their anger across South Africa

April 13, 1993|By New York Times News Service

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa -- An angry shudder passed through the townships of South Africa yesterday as blacks mourning the killing of Chris Hani, the charismatic black leader, put up barricades, burned cars, looted stores and fired on police officers and journalists.

No deaths or serious injuries were reported in the sporadic violence, but black leaders and government officials feared that the anger would escalate, fueled by new evidence that the pistol used to shoot Mr. Hani on Saturday in front of his home had come from a military armory.

The police said the gun was part of a cache pilfered from an air force office in Pretoria three years ago by young airmen aligned with a right-wing paramilitary group, the Afrikaner Resistance Movement.

The leader of that group, Eugene TerreBlanche, confirmed yesterday that the man accused of killing Mr. Hani, a Polish immigrant named Janusz Walus, had been a member of his organization since 1986.

In a telephone interview from his headquarters in Ventersdorp, 60 miles west of Johannesburg, Mr. TerreBlanche disavowed any knowledge of the killing and said he condemned it, on the ground that assassination was not military fair play.

For many conspiracy-minded blacks, the mere origin of the weapon was enough to implicate President F. W. de Klerk's government in Mr. Hani's slaying.

Senior officials of the African National Congress and allied organizations said the ease with which right-wing zealots had stolen weapons from the military at least suggested official complicity.

On the stump in the simmering townships, local orators flatly blamed the killing on the state.

The African National Congress moved to focus the rage by scheduling a variety of official commemorations and protests in honor of Mr. Hani, the leader of the Communist Party and one of the most popular figures in the ANC.

"We never deny people their right to be angry," said Tokyo Sexwale, chairman of the ANC's largest region, the industrial heartland surrounding Johannesburg. "But they must understand that their anger must be channeled constructively."

The black townships southeast of Johannesburg, near the suburb where Mr. Hani lived, seemed on the brink of chaos at some points yesterday and remained tense.

In Katlehong, young blacks flocking to an impromptu memorial rally set cars on fire and then fired on reporters filming the damage. A mob of about 60 people rampaged through a shopping mall outside Kagiso township, throwing gasoline bombs that left 16 stores smoldering.

ANC leaders trod a fine line between venting the anger and inciting it.

Peter Mokaba, the popular president of the ANC youth league, called on followers in Katlehong to make the white government "tremble before us." But when the police refused to let a column of marchers enter the middle-class suburb where Mr. Hani died, Mr. Mokaba led them quietly away.

Mr. Walus, who the police say fired four bullets into Mr. Hani as he returned from buying newspapers Saturday morning, is to be formally charged this morning.

Accounts in South African newspapers say that Mr. Walus was among the many Eastern Europeans who fled their countries in the 1980s to escape communism, seeking refuge in the prosperous and conservative white community of South Africa.

The police said that Mr. Walus had licenses for four guns, including a machine pistol, but that the gun used on Mr. Hani came from the raid in Pretoria, led by a self-styled Afrikaner commando named Piet Rudolph.

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