Church Leaders Press Sanctions Against S. Africa

Clerics say curbs are still needed until Pretoria brings violence under control

SOUTH African and international church leaders called Thursday for maintaining financial sanctions against South Africa, as escalating political violence undermined a five-week-old peace accord.The church leaders said that financial curbs should remain until the violence was brought under control and agreement reached on an interim government. The government has appealed to the international community to lift financial sanctions so that it can regain access to foreign loans and capital for development. Since the accord was signed in Johannesburg, more than 200 people have died in political violence, at least 45 of them in the past five days. The accord, which was signed by 24 political and trade-union groups, has still not been implemented because of internal differences between the parties. The latest in a series of attacks on black train commuters spread a wave of terror through Soweto on Wednesday. At least nine commuters were killed by unidentified gunmen, and 36 people were injured by the attackers or as they threw themselves from moving trains to avoid attacks. Trains that normally carry tens of thousands of commuters from Soweto to Johannesburg were almost deserted Thursday morning following attacks on Soweto trains and stations Wednesday. Leaders of the African National Congress (ANC) and the Zulu-based Inkatha Freedom Party blamed each other for the attacks amid fears that revenge killings between supporters of the two groups were increasing. Both groups also blamed the police for failing to prevent the attacks, and an ANC spokesman warned that the violence could soon spread to white areas. But the police spokesman, Col. Jac de Vries, said the violence was caused by residents taking the law into their own hands. Police stepped up patrols following the killings Wednesday by searching three peak-hour trains and the predominantly Zulu Nancefield hostel in Soweto. The church call for maintaining financial sanctions was made following a meeting of the ecumenical South African Council of Churches and a visiting delegation of the World Council of Churches (WCC) in Cape Town. The church leaders expressed concern that any further lifting of sanctions now would stall negotiation by removing the political pressure needed to take South Africa into the transition. Political leaders are still paying lip service to the peace accord, but privately they concede that supporters are losing faith in its ability to contain escalating violence. Most countries have lifted cultural embargoes against South Africa, but there is an international debate under way as to when would be the best moment to lift trade and financial sanctions. Anti-apartheid and church leaders hold President Frederik de Klerk responsible for failing to end the violence and insist that elements of his security forces are involved in provoking it. Police initially claimed the attack on the trains appeared to be connected to the shooting of a Zulu driving a car on the outskirts of Soweto. Police said the passengers had escaped and taken refuge in Nancefield hostel shortly before the train attacks erupted. But Themba Khoza, leader of Inkatha in Transvaal province, insisted the attacks had been carried out by ANC supporters and criticized the police for not protecting commuters. The Johannesburg daily, Business Day, reported yesterday that political squabbling within the National Peace Committee over the appointment of one person to a key position was delaying implementation of the accord. John Hall, a leading businessman who is chairman of the National Peace Committee, was unavailable for comment yesterday. WCC General Secretary Emilio Castro, leading the first World Council delegation to visit South Africa in 30 years, said Wednesday that sanctions "continued to be an effective way of inducing change." Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu argued at the conference in favor of retaining financial sanctions until the violence was brought under control. "I'm not going to call for the lifting of financial sanctions until the government shows it is serious about dealing with the violence that is eroding our community," he said.

of 5 stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read 5 of 5 free stories

Only $1 for your first month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.