South Africans brace for continuation of bombing campaign
Johannesburg — South Africa's civil war has spread into its white cities and towns since the declaration of a state of emergency on June 12. There have been 12 bomb blasts since President Pieter W. Botha's decision to proclaim a general state of emergency. All but one have taken place in or near white-administered cities and towns rather than their satellite black townships. The latest bomb exploded outside a busy supermarket near Pretoria on Friday, injuring 20 people of all races, five of them seriously.
Friday's bomb was the third in less than a week to rock three major cities. The first two exploded in the center of Johannesburg and just outside a police station in Cape Town. A total of 30 people were injured.
But the spate of bombings in white-designated cities and towns has not meant that peace has returned to black townships, where most of the violence was concentrated before the emergency.
In the latest surge of township violence, five black government officials were shot dead over the weekend by a suspected African National Congress assassination squad. The victims, all employees of local township development boards, were killed by roving assassins armed with Soviet-made AK-47 rifles.
For months, the outlawed African National Congress (ANC) has aimed attacks against blacks serving in township councils and in the police force. But the weekend attack on government officials marked a major intensification of the struggle for control of the townships. In the past, most attacks were carried out at night with gasoline bombs or grenades. The weekend strike, however, was launched almost brazenly in broad daylight.
Reacting to the bomb attacks, Deputy Minister of Law and Order Adriaan Vlok called for pitiless action against the ``murdering bandits'' of the ANC. He told the Afrikaans-language Sunday newspaper, Rapport, that the ANC was trying to create panic in all sections of the population. Its actions, he said, were in reaction to the decrease in general violence since the state of emergency. (The South African government's Bureau for Information reported at the weekend that the daily number of violent episodes had decreased since the emergency.)
``They are trying to create a fear psychosis and sow panic among ordinary people,'' Mr. Vlok said. ``They will not succeed. The ANC will not force the government from its path of ordered change.''
In contrast to Vlok's tough stance on the ANC, 12 leading white businessmen over the weekend urged the South African government to release the jailed ANC leader, Nelson Mandela, and to lift the ban on the organization. They warned that there could be no secure future for South Africa unless the ANC helped to secure it.
The 12 businessmen included the chairman of the powerful Anglo-American Corporation, Gavin Relly, who said: ``Whether one likes the ANC or not -- and I personally do not like its policy of violence nor its Marxist economic thinking -- it constitutes an important factor in the South African political setup.''
In the meantime, however, South Africans are bracing for a continuation of the bombing campaign. In a bid to increase public awareness, the police have warned that the bombers might be hiding their explosives and weapons in ``back yards and spare rooms'' of South Africa's urban areas.
While black township violence has been played down by the progovernment press, the bomb campaign has been given front-page coverage.
A tense week lies ahead with South Africa's largest federation of black trade unions threatening mass industrial action. The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) has given employers and the government until Thursday to meet a list of demands, including the release of all detained union leaders and an end to nationwide ``repression'' of black foes of the government.
COSATU has not spelled out what action it will take if its demands are not met. But strikes are clearly anticipated if the some 220 detained union leaders -- about 90 percent of whom are from COSATU -- are not released.
Four diamond mines have already been closed by striking black miners who are members of the National Union of Mineworkers, the largest black union and the single biggest affiliate of COSATU.
The foreign minister, Roelof ``Pik'' Botha, declared unequivocably late last week that South Africa would rather face sanctions than give way to outside pressure on how to solve its problems.
Moreover, according to the Afrikaans-language press, the South African President will not receive the British foreign secretary, Sir Geoffrey Howe, if he arrives, as scheduled, on a peace mission on behalf of the European Community on Wednesday.