Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Shootout Jars South Africa Killings of Journalist and Township Residents Again Raise Question of How to Police Disruptive Worker Hostels

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Shootout Jars South Africa Killings of Journalist and Township Residents Again Raise Question of How to Police Disruptive Worker Hostels

Article excerpt

THE daily agony of the residents of this embattled black township east of Johannesburg is threatening to precipitate a national crisis following the weekend attack on a peace mission of the African National Congress (ANC).

Gunmen opened fire from the KwaMazibuko hostel on an ANC peace mission led by ANC Secretary-General Cyril Ramaphosa and South African Communist Party Chairman Joe Slovo. This reporter was among a group of journalists traveling with the entourage when the attack occurred. Mr. Ramaphosa and Mr. Slovo escaped unharmed, but freelance photographer Abdul Shariff was killed in the gunfire, and two other journalists were wounded.

Two residents were killed in the cross-fire between the hostel and members of ANC-supporting defense units, who returned the fire. Police shot one man dead and arrested three others after the shootout. All four appear to have been defense unit members.

The KwaMazibuko hostel is a stronghold of the Zulu-based Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP), whose central committee decided over the weekend to boycott the country's first nonracial ballot scheduled for April 27 and to defy the decisions of the Transitional Executive Council. The TEC is a multiracial commission charged with overseeing the government in the run-up to the election.

The conflict here is the subject of a meeting between President Frederik de Klerk and ANC President Nelson Mandela today that could have a vital bearing on the election. Political violence here and in the neighboring township of Tokoza will also top the agenda at a TEC meeting in Pretoria today.

Mr. Mandela said Saturday that he had repeatedly requested Mr. de Klerk to encircle the offending hostels with security forces, but De Klerk had failed to act on the request. De Klerk's government stated more than two years ago that it would fence off troublesome hostels but has so far failed to do so.

Mandela said in a television interview Sunday that he had called De Klerk after the Sunday shootout and made a proposal to deal with the situation. "If he {De Klerk} does not act on that proposal, then South Africa is facing a crisis," he said. "We cannot allow a situation where a hostel has become the center of the most blatant criminal action without the police doing anything about it."

The police, who were conspicuous by their absence throughout the 30-minute gun battle on Sunday, did not enter the hostel from where the unprovoked attack emanated until more than 12 hours after the attack. Two men were arrested and an automatic weapon seized in a raid carried out before dawn on Monday.

A police spokesman conceded that law enforcement in the area was under severe strain. Regional police commissioner Gen. Koos Calitz told the Monitor on Sunday that it would have been too dangerous to send police into the hostel.

"They will kill our policemen if they go in there," General Calitz said. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.