Amid a new surge of political violence, two prominent black leaders have hardened their stand against the South African government. The verbal escalation by Bishop Desmond Tutu and Winnie Mandela is the latest slap at President Pieter W. Botha's hopes to effect a gradual, peaceful move away from the country's system of racial segregation, known as apartheid.
Yesterday, Bishop Tutu, was named overall leader of the Anglican Church for Southern Africa. Tutu will be the first black head of the province, which covers South Africa, Namibia (South West Africa), Mozambique, Swaziland, Lesotho, and St. Helena Island.
Mrs. Mandela's latest remarks on anti-apartheid activity of blacks have gone considerably further than any by Tutu. She went as far as to imply her endorsement of black insurgents killing political foes.
The two black leaders' separate statements in recent days seem to reflect the growing militancy of youths who have come to dominate black townships such as Soweto and Alexandra, outside Johannesburg. The remarks also amount to salvos in a battle of wills with the country's white-minority government.
They come as the Insitute of Race Relations, a nonpartisan research group, has recorded an increase in victims of political violence since the government lifted a state of emergency March 7. The IRR said 171 people were killed in March -- more than five a day. There were roughly three deaths each day during the emergency period, which lasted from July 1985 through March of this year. More than 1450 people, almost all blacks, have lost their lives during this period of political unrest. And police figures released yesterday said an additional 11 people died in overnight violence.
Tutu ushered in April with a public call for international economic sanctions against South Africa. The statement was most surprising for its timing, just before the election for a new leader of the Anglican Church. A black cleric close to the bishop remarked to the Monitor: ``I and others figured he would keep a low profile in advance of the election. . . . Evidently he felt he must urgently speak out.''
In a weekend interview with a Johannesburg newspaper, Tutu indicated one reason he felt a need to speak out. He senses that emphasis on conciliation in the present circumstances threatens any black leader's grass-roots credibility.
He recapped several instances in which he has publicly intervened to cool township tempers -- most recently in a February address to youths in Alexandra. In that case, he persuaded a crowd to disperse by pledging to take its grievances before government leaders in Cape Town.
But he failed to secure an audience with President Botha. He returned with official assurances that the townships' grievances would be looked into, but the skeptical militants rejected them as much too vague.
``You saw what happened in Alexandra,'' Tutu was quoted in the weekend interview. Harking back to his earlier stated fears that political moderation risked being outpaced by township anger, he called the Alexandra events ``the beginning of what I said must happen at some point.''
Mrs. Mandela went further in a series of speeches to township audiences over the weekend. The wife of Nelson Mandela, the jailed leader of the outlawed African National Congress, predicted that 1986 would be black South Africans' year of ``liberation.'' The ANC is the most prominent black nationalist group fighting for elimination of apartheid.
Speaking to a cheering crowd, Mrs. Mandela said: ``Together, hand in hand with our sticks of matches, with our necklaces, we shall liberate this country.''
The ``our necklaces'' refers to ``necklacing'' -- a form of violence in which black insurgents collar blacks who are allegedly collaborators with the government with rubber tires that have been doused in gasoline, and then set them alight.
Mandela's remarks came despite official denials of her lawyer's contention that a longtime ``banning order'' against her has lapsed. Her entry into Soweto -- and speeches given there and in several other outlying townships -- would violate the terms of the ban.
The publication of quotations from Mrs. Mandela in Johannesburg's main daily, The Star, on Monday may also violate government restrictions. The Star's lawyer has contended they do not. The newspaper omitted mention of her reference to ``necklaces.''