South African Police and Protesters Clash
JOHANNESBURG — POLICE officers said five blacks were killed Monday when police fired on a rent protest march in the black township of Sebokeng south of Johannesburg. The officers said about 260 people were hurt, half of them by police. But officials at the Sebokeng Hospital said yesterday that nine people were killed and 447 treated for injuries, mostly from police shotgun fire. It was the worst confrontation between police and protesters in recent months.
African National Congress (ANC) leader Walter Sisulu said the violence in Sebokeng and other black townships may stem from efforts to derail negotiations with the government on sharing power with blacks. Government officials have made the same charge.
Mr. Sisulu said black leaders would complain about Monday's incident when the ANC meets government leaders April 11 to try to clear the way for talks on ending white-minority rule.
The Mass Democratic Movement, which organized Monday's protest in Sebokeng, claimed police ``excited'' the situation and started the violence. It urged blacks to be calm.
Hundreds of people have died in recent weeks in a wave of political unrest.
Police said they were forced to fire in Sebokeng after protesters armed with stones, bottles, and clubs attacked police and injured two officers. Two protesters were killed when police opened fire with shotguns, and three were killed later when police broke up a mob looting a liquor store, officials said.
But blacks in Sebokeng had claimed the march was peaceful and police opened fire without provocation.
Yesterday, thousands of blacks marched in the township of Kwathema near Johannesburg to protest against high rents. Police monitored the peaceful march and made no move to intervene, witnesses said.
Also yesterday, in Cape Town, police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse squatters who tried to stop municipal workers from demolishing shacks at a squatter camp. Police said they intervened after squatters attacked the workers.