South African police say black violence slows. But under state of emergency, deaths and detentions continue
Johannesburg — Black unrest has lessened but not disappeared since the imposition of a state of emergency Sunday, according to the South African police. At a press conference yesterday, police commissioner Gen. Johan Coetzee also said he would not immediately use the emergency powers given to him to control or prohibit news about events in the country's troubled black townships. The state of emergency applies to 36 of South Africa's 322 magisterial districts.
General Coetzee said generally there has been less violence in black townships. But police confirm there have been at least five deaths, and according to unofficial reports at least 130 detentions, since the state of emergency began. Over the past 10 months unrest in South Africa has claimed nearly 500 lives.
Incidents of reported violence include petrol bombing and stoning of police vehicles and alleged ``collaborators'' -- black policemen and town councilors -- in a number of townships. At least one of the deaths occurred in a black community not covered by the proclamation.
Many of those arrested under the emergency regulations are said to be second-tier officials of the multiracial anti-apartheid United Democratic Front. Nearly all the UDF's national leaders are already standing trial for treason.
Coetzee's decision to delay assumption of the censorship powers available to him came after talks with the National Press Union, an organization representing newspaper proprietors and managers. Both parties agreed that there was a need to scale down or ``cool down'' coverage of the unrest.
Coetzee said, ``I will not restrict the role of a free press that identifies real and serious matters in a responsible way, even in an emergency situation and even if it is scandalous for the police.''
The general, who was charged with responsibility by South Africa's President Pieter W. Botha for coordinating application of the emergency regulations by security forces, said he would release daily the names and addresses of all people detained under the regulations. That could help remove concerns voiced by some that people will simply disappear.
But last night police were unable to confirm reports that police had swooped down on townships in the eastern Cape Province early Monday, detaining at least 15 community leaders, including clergymen and trade unionists. The full list of detainees is, however, expected to be released today.
Coetzee has delegated authority to deputy police commissioners to demarcate any area and to exclude from the designated area all persons, including journalists, who do not live there. So far, no such areas have been demarcated in any of the 36 districts.
President Botha yesterday rejected a call by the opposition leader in the white chamber of South Africa's tri-racial Parliament, Frederik van Zyl Slabbert, to reconvene Parliament.
What was needed now was concrete action to bring unrest to an end, not more debate, Botha said. The turmoil in the townships was fully debated when Parliament was in session, especially after the presentation last month of the report of the Kannemeyer Commission into the shooting by police of 20 blacks at Langa on March 21, Botha added.
``It is, and it remains, the responsibility of the government to ensure the safety of its people. My government will not shirk that responsibility,'' Botha said.