Violence Aimed at S. African Talks
Activists say a `third force' is behind campaign to undermine interracial dialogue
ALEXANDRA, SOUTH AFRICA — THE massacre of 15 people at a prayer vigil here on Wednesday points to a ``third force'' manipulating strife between the African National Congress and the Zulu-based Inkatha Freedom Party. Civic leaders and human rights activists believe this week's attack in Alexandra is part of an orchestrated campaign to destabilize the township, formerly a model of ethnic tolerance and political cooperation.
``These were not local members of Inkatha who committed these acts,'' says David Robb, Administrator at the Alexandra Clinic. ``The killings were organized and professional and took place in the context of a major campaign of destabilization of the community.''
The attack occurred at the Ramokgola home where a night vigil was being held for Jane Foki Ramokgola, who was killed in earlier township violence. The murders occurred against a backdrop of rapidly escalating political violence that is undermining the process of interracial dialogue, say political analysts and diplomats.
Township's focus shifts
In addition to the Wednesday killings, 65 others were reported killed this month in African National Congress (ANC)-Inkatha fighting in Alexandra. Eleven others were killed by police in a recent clash.
``The level of desperation in the townships is running so deep that people are no longer concerned with transforming the country politically but rather with the immediate issue of security and safety,'' says Khehla Shubane of the independent Center for Policy Studies.
There is growing circumstantial evidence that extreme right-wing whites and renegade elements of the security forces are instigating and fanning violence to wreck the interracial dialogue.
``There are clearly forces beyond the ANC and Inkatha bent on wrecking the negotiating process,'' Mr. Shubane says.
His view was confirmed by interviews with township residents who dismissed negotiations as irrelevant and expressed disillusionment with the ANC for failing to protect residents against the violence.
``The ANC is committed to negotiations,'' says a bitter resident who asked not to be named. ``But by the time they win and enter Parliament there will be no-one left for them to govern.''
But Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu, in a sermon in Cape Town's St. Georges Cathedral, challenged black South Africans to examine their own hearts.
``Something has gone desperately wrong in the black community,'' the Nobel Peace laureate told a multiracial congregation on Wednesday. ``We must, of course, point to all the causes of violence,'' he said. ``But, ultimately, we must turn the spotlight on ourselves.
``We can't go on forever blaming apartheid,'' Bishop Tutu said. ``Our organizations need to go back to the grass roots and instill discipline from the lowest ranks up.''
ANC Deputy President Nelson Mandela this week blamed a ``third force of armed vigilantes'' for the violence and said that while there were many ``good policemen'' there were also ``bad elements'' involved in the fighting.
``The government has got the capacity but is not doing enough to stop the violence,'' said ANC Secretary-General Alfred Nzo at a press conference Wednesday. ``This is a deliberate omission which is part of a strategy to weaken the ANC so that it will be difficult to engage in peaceful political activity.''
Police spokeswoman Nina Barkhuizen said police had not granted the family's request for special protection because they were not aware of the presence of an armed gang. The area, which includes a high concentration of squatter shanties, is known to have become an Inkatha stronghold during the past three weeks of violence.
Police deny involvement
Police denied any involvement in the killings and Commissioner General Johan van der Merwe ordered a police investigation. Inkatha spokesmen condemned the killings, joining ANC and civil rights workers in blaming a ``third force.''
Witnesses said Zulu gunmen clad in brown overalls and armed with AK-47 assault rifles killed 15 mourners, including young children and wounded 16 others. The effect has been to shatter a community already hit by three weeks of violence.
Eight of those killed were members of the ANC Youth League and the ANC-aligned Congress of South African Students, though there was no official ANC presence or protection at the vigil.
``It's not just the ANC or Inkatha being attacked,'' says Moses Mayekiso, president of the Civic Associations of southern Transvaal and a senior ANC member in Alexandra. ``What we have here is vigilantes attacking the communities.''