S. African blacks and officials begin dialogue to avert more riots
Johannesburg — A tentative dialogue has begun that could avert further violence in the troubled black townships that exploded earlier this week in South Africa. Black residents and local government officials have begun talking about the increase in property rental fees that apparently sparked protests and then riots in five townships south of Johannesburg.
Meanwhile, sporadic incidents of looting and arson continue in those townships and in other black areas further afield. There continues to be a sizable number of black students - about 30,000 - boycotting classes nationwide.
Residents of Sharpeville have held discussions with officials of the Orange Vaal Development Board and the Lekoa Town Council, the two bodies that administer Sharpeville and the other townships south of Johannesburg.
''The people are saying let's talk,'' explains Luther Mateza, a Presbyterian minister and resident of Sharpeville. The way he sees it, ''the violent eruption was a case of (blacks) calling for attention'' to their economic grievances.
An official of the Lekoa Town Council said no decision on whether the proposed site rental increase would be rescinded was likely until next week when the Town Council would meet.
The Lekoa Town Council, made up of black elected representatives from a number of townships, had decided earlier to raise the rental fees (the equivalent of a property tax) by about $4 per month on top of the standard fee of $26 per month. The explosion of violence that took 31 lives in those townships was sudden and dramatic. But Mr. Mateza says in the communities ''the people have been talking about the rent increase for weeks.''
The town councilors, considered by many blacks to be ''stooges,'' were targeted during the unrest. Three were killed and many had their homes and businesses attacked.
(According to Reuters, three South African Cabinet ministers planned a tour of the riot-torn black townships Thursday.
(Law and Order Minister Louis Le Grange, Internal Affairs Minister F. W. de Klerk, and National Education Minister Gerrit Viljoen were to visit the area around Sharpeville.
(Earlier Thursday, police said a black youth was allegedly stabbed to death by a fellow pupil in Vosloosrus, 12 miles southeast of Johannesburg, in unrest there Wednesday.
(In Sebokeng, near Sharpeville, the body of a black man was found Wednesday night and a murder case opened.
(Police said there was an arson attack late Wednesday on a black policeman's home in a township near Welkom, 140 miles south of Johannesburg. A neighbor, also a policeman, fired to disperse the crowd of black youths but no casualties were reported, police said.
(In the black township of Soweto, a gasoline bomb was thrown at the home of the mayor of a black council but it caused only slight damage, police said.)