S. Africa opposition sets 40-day protest campaign

April 17, 1993|By Jerelyn Eddings | Jerelyn Eddings,Johannesburg Bureau

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa -- Tensions rose in South Africa yesterday as opposition groups declared a 40-day campaign of protests in response to the murder of prominent black leader Chris Hani.

The African National Congress (ANC) and its labor union allies said they would embark on a mass campaign starting Tuesday, the day after Mr. Hani's funeral, unless multiparty negotiators set an early date for the first non-racial elections.

They also lashed out at the white-minority government's reaction to the murder, saying President F. W. de Klerk had "launched an offensive on a grieving people."

But Mr. de Klerk, denouncing the planned campaign, said his government would not give in to "blackmail" and warned it would take the necessary steps to maintain order. He added that his government remained committed to democracy negotiations.

Six days after Mr. Hani was assassinated allegedly by a white extremist, opposition leaders hit out at the government in retaliation for verbal attacks by officials.

The government gave police special powers this week to contain violence and detain demonstrators without charge in large parts of the country as the country braces for Mr. Hani's funeral Monday, expected to be one of the largest in South African history.

The crackdown came after rioting broke out in several cities during Wednesday's day of mourning for Mr. Hani, head of the South African Communist Party and an ANC executive committee member.

The government blamed the ANC, hit out at its leaders despite their repeated calls for calm, and made derogatory references to "jungle justice" taking root in the country.

RF "F. W. de Klerk has failed to respond to a national crisis as a na

tional leader," said labor leader Jay Naidoo, reading a formal statement from the ANC, the Communist Party and the Congress of South African Trade Unions.

In contrast to its saber-rattling against the ANC, the government had done nothing about right-wing extremism after a newspaper was given an alleged extremist hit list of people to be killed next, the ANC and its allies said.

"We can't expect protection," said Communist Party chairman Joe Slovo, whose name was on the list. "But as citizens of the country, taxpayers of the country, we have every right to demand of the government that it carries out its duties."

Nelson Mandela's name was also on the hit list.

Mr. Naidoo said the ANC alliance would launch a campaign of demonstrations in the wake of the Hani assassination to pressure the government to move more quickly in negotiations for a new democratic government.

He said the demonstrations would begin April 20.

"The people's patience is not endless. Negotiations must not be endless," he told reporters. "The unforgiveable murder of our comrade Chris Hani has mobilized a people's army across the face of our land."

Cyril Ramaphosa, the ANC's third-ranking leader, said the government had been insensitive to the grief and anger of Mr. Hani's supporters.

"Our people are agitated, deeply frustrated, and very angry," he said.

Instead of showing sensitivity and sympathy, he said, "the de Klerk regime is effectively launching an offensive against a grieving people."

Thousands were expected to march through the streets of Johannesburg and Pretoria today as the uproar caused by Mr. Hani's death continues.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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