Mandela blames white government for standing idle in face of black violence

January 09, 1994|By Michael Hill | Michael Hill,Johannesburg Bureau

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa -- Violence is going to be more than an intimidating factor in South Africa's first multiracial political campaign -- it's also going to be a major partisan issue.

That was made clear yesterday when Nelson Mandela gave the annual report on the state of the political party he heads, the African National Congress (ANC), as it celebrated its 82nd birthday.

Although almost all of the nation's political violence takes place among blacks, much of it in factional fighting between supporters of the ANC and Mangosuthu Buthelezi's Inkatha Freedom Party, Mr. Mandela blamed the bloodshed on the current white-controlled government.

"The government has failed to maintain law and order," Mr. Mandela said, claiming that police and military forces have not done their jobs in the black townships and that this situation would be better under an ANC-led government.

But Mr. Mandela went further, charging that this failure to stem the violence that claimed 3,000 black lives last year was not due to incompetence, but a deliberate part of the campaign of the National Party, headed by President F. W. de Klerk.

"They are certain of the support of whites, and they think, wrongly, that they are going to get the majority of votes among the coloreds and Indians," he said of the National Party, which instituted an apartheid system in 1948 and has controlled the country's government through white-only elections ever since.

"All the violence is taking place in the African areas, which is the base of support for the ANC. Clearly they believe that fighting among people who are going to vote for the ANC will cause many of them to stayaway from the polls," he said.

Mr. Mandela has said that Mr. de Klerk didn't care about blacks and therefore allowed the political violence to escalate.

Mr. Mandela blamed the decades of white minority rule for

making South Africa a fertile field for such violence.

"The old order could only survive on the basis of brute force and violence. This has infused our society with a culture of violence. We are today reaping the fruits of that heritage in the form of massive criminal violence, including the abuse of women and children, violence within families as well as political thuggery and terrorism," he said.

This tough rhetoric reflected the acrimony that has developed between Mr. Mandela and Mr. de Klerk -- co-winners of the Nobel Peace Prize -- four months before the parliamentary election.

His comments came at the end of a week that saw the government and the National Party try to capitalize on an admission by the ANC that some of its members have been involved in the violence that has plagued the townships of Katlehong and Tokoza on the East Rand near Johannesburg.

Previously, most discussion about the East Rand violence has been in the form of finger-pointing, with the hostel-dwellers loyal to the Inkatha Freedom Party blaming ANC supporters in the township and the ANC blaming hostel residents and right- wing elements within the police.

But last week, the ANC said that some of its Self Defense Units were out of control.

These so-called SDUs are groups of youths that form informal, but supposedly well-disciplined, police forces, allegedly protecting the townships in a way that the government police do not.

That they also enforce ANC political policy on boycotts and stay-aways is well known. But last week, the ANC said that some East Rand SDUs had gone well beyond that and had started fighting one another in deadly gang-style warfare. The ANC formed a commission to investigate the matter.

Law and Order Ministry spokesman Capt. Craig Kotze, who has often been the government's point man in anti-ANC rhetoric, said that the East Rand SDUs were out of control.

"The African National Congress' ineffectual and feeble attempts at damage control are being interpreted by SDU warlords as license to continue their reign of terror," Captain Kotze said.

But at the news conference with Mr. Mandela, Joe Slovo, head of the South African Communist Party, said that SDUs were only a smallpart of the East Rand problem.

"Remember, in the townships of Katlehong and Tokoza, since May of last year, there have been 1,200 people killed in political violence, half the people killed in the entire country," he said.

"It is only in recent weeks that that conflicts among some of the SDU units has surfaced."

He described the attempts to blame the SDUs for the bulk of the East Rand violence as "government propaganda."

While most observers have few doubts that violence will increase between now and the election April 27, there is no doubt that political rhetoric about violence will also intensify during the same period.

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