Bophuthatswana to vote in S. African election

March 12, 1994|By Michael Hill | Michael Hill,Johannesburg Bureau of The Sun

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa -- After a day of chaos in the independent homeland that he heads, President Lucas Mangope Bophuthatswana announced that his party would participate in South Africa's elections.

But the Inkatha Freedom Party of Zulu leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi reportedly failed to make an election deadline, and an election official said it would be dropped from the ballot.

It was Mr. Mangope's decision earlier this week to keep Bophuthatswana out of South Africa's first nonracial vote that escalated from a public service strike to general unrest.

The situation turned deadly yesterday when right-wing white paramilitary troops arrived, ostensibly to restore order.

Perhaps as many as 30 people were left dead throughout the homeland, which was set up by South Africa 17 years ago as an independent country for the Tswana people to deny them South African citizenship.

Last night the area seemed on the verge of returning to South Africa by force as units of the South African Defense Force began to move in and restore order.

South African troops were widely reviled in Bophuthatswana four years ago when they arrived to restore Mr. Mangope to the presidency after a military coup. But yesterday a contingent that occupied the South African Embassy was welcomed by residents who want to vote in the April 26-28 elections without the roadblocks Mr. Mangope has threatened to put in their way.

Reports were scattered and unreliable, but it was clear that some of the people killed died at the hands of Bophuthatswana (( military personnel and police trying to stop looting.

Others were killed by right-wing troops who claimed they were invited in by Mr. Mangope to help restore order.

Three right-wingers, members of the neo-Nazi AWB, were killed by Bophuthatswana security forces.

About 2,000 white right-wingers had gathered at the air base in Mmbatho, Bophuthatswana's capital, early in the morning, later deploying around a shopping area that was heavily looted Thursday, before being asked to leave by the Bophuthatswana government.

It was during the withdrawal that the deadly incident occurred.

Last night, observers reported that only 20 cars carrying the right-wingers had passed through a security checkpoint. Another report said that marauding right-wing troops had shot and killed three blacks in nearby Mafikeng long after the extremists were supposed to have left the area.

Two journalists, Paul Taylor of the Washington Post and John Battersby of the Christian Science Monitor, were assaulted by the withdrawing right-wing troops.

Reportedly, a group of heavily armed right-wingers fired on members of a South African television news crew. When Mr. Taylor and Mr. Battersby came to the aid of the crew, they were reportedly beaten and threatened with guns and a knife. Their injuries were not considered serious.

At a news conference yesterday, South African President F. W. de Klerk emphasized that Mr. Mangope's decision to register his North West Christian Democratic Party for the elections came about through negotiations, not because of the unrest in Bophuthatswana.

While the deadline for registering for the elections was last week, yesterday was the deadline for submitting lists of candidates, and Mr. Mangope got his list in, as did the Freedom Front, which carried out its promise to break the white right-wing boycott of the election.

Reuters quoted an election official as saying that Inkatha was the only registered party that failed to submit its candidate list.

Norman du Plessis said that Inkatha, which registered provisionally a week ago, would be dropped from the ballot paper and could no longer contest the elections. "It is now too late for Inkatha," he said.

Officials said the deadline was necessary because a British printing company would start printing the 80 million ballot papers today.

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