KATLEHONG, SOUTH AFRICA — EARTHMOVING equipment of the South African Defense Force has already begun remaking the roads in this shattered township east of Johannesburg, and soldiers are planning the cleaning and restoration of the township. ``The atmosphere has changed completely since mainly black SADF soldiers began replacing the discredited - and mainly white - riot police of the Internal Stability Division,'' says an aid worker.
The withdrawal of the riot police, who were widely perceived by the black community as siding with the Zulu-based Inkatha Freedom Party, and their replacement with SADF soldiers is the result of a detailed agreement between President Frederik de Klerk and African National Congress President Nelson Mandela. The two leaders met for four hours on Jan. 11 following an incident in which ANC leaders were fired on from a nearby hostel, and a journalist was killed. The IFP has strongly criticized the plan - particularly the withdrawal of the riot police.
The security-and-upliftment plan for the violence-wracked townships of Katlehong, Tokoza, and Vosloorus was jointly unveiled on Tuesday by Mr. De Klerk in Pretoria and by Mr. Mandela in a community hall in this troubled township.
Mandela, whose visit took place amid stringent security precautions, was accompanied by senior members of the Transitional Executive Council, a multiracial commission charged with overseeing the transition to democracy and ensuring political equality before the country's April election.
The plan is designed to end a spiral of violence in the area that has claimed more than 1,600 lives in political violence in the past year. The plan is unique because SADF soldiers will be accountable to the community and will be actively involved in the rehabilitation of social services and infrastructure in the area.