S. African racists get busy

Some weird racist organizations have come to light in this country to oppose any moves to liberalize South Africa's race laws. Some are secret, some seek all the publicity they can get. Some stage demonstrations. One group at least has been planting bombs.

It is difficult to assess how much support they have, or how dangerous they could become. One measure will be the amount of electoral support the extremist political parties to the right of Prime Minister Pieter W. Botha's ruling National Party win in the forthcoming general election.

Right-wing activists have come into the limelight with the recent arrest of three white men and a white woman after bomb attacks on the offices of two Afrikaner academics in the Transvaal Province city of Pretoria, the country's administrative capital.

A clandestine group that calls itself the "Wit Kommando" (White Commando) has claimed responsibility for the explosions -- and threatened more. All four people arrested are allegedly members of the group.

Those arrested are being held under the country's security legislation, which usually is used against black dissidents. They are not allowed access to a lawyer, nor may anybody visit them, until the police decide to bring them to court.

Interestingly, although the organization has an Afrikaans name, two of the people arrested have English names, one is an Italian-speaking businessman, and only one is Afrikaans.

The police are also investigating ties between the Wit Kommando and another right-wing organization, the South African National Front, which itself appears to have connections with the racist National Front in Britain.

Before the recent arrests, the Wit Kommando threatened that it would undertake a massive bombing attack on Asians and people of mixed race (Coloreds) living illegally in areas in South African cities that are reserved for whites. It threatened to kill the landlords responsible for letting the nonwhites in.

A rather more melodramatic organization to receive publicity recently is a women's group called the "Kappie Kommando" (the Bonnet Commando).

The bonnet referred to is the traditional bonnet worn by the Afrikaner voortrekkers (Boer settlers) in the early pioneering days, and the avowed intention of the Bonnet Commandos is to shame the Afrikaner, through demonstrations and by prayer, to going back to his "traditional ways."

However, the organization's leader, Marie van Zyl, declares that "violence is not excluded" from the organization's future activities, "for isn't violence allowed by the Bible under certain circumstances?"

Mrs. Van Zyl and others from the commando made the front pages of several newspapers when they demonstrated in stern black dresses and black voortrekker bonnets at the opening of Parliament in Cape Town. They tried to present a spray of white carnations wrapped with mournful purple ribbons to Prime Minister Botha, whom they regard as among those "selling out" the whites generally and the Afrikaners in particular.

They are also against liberal Afrikaner academics, theologians who question racial exclusivity, and even the secret Afrikaans society, the Broederbond (band of brothers), which they consider is going soft on various issues.

Mrs. Van Zyl claims the movement is nationwide, that it will soon stage big demonstrations, and that even English-speaking women are joining "because they like women w ho stand together."

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