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Mandela Wife's Home Attacked With Firebombs

August 14, 1985|MICHAEL PARKS | Times Staff Writer

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — The home of Winnie Mandela, wife of imprisoned African National Congress leader Nelson Mandela, was attacked with firebombs early Tuesday and extensively damaged.

Mrs. Mandela, 48, who has been in hiding in the Johannesburg area for the last week as the result of a police raid on the house in Brandfort, a remote town in the Orange Free State almost 200 miles southwest of here, was not home at the time. Her house was empty except for a cat that suffocated in the thick smoke.

While police blamed "unknown arsonists" and said that the incident will be investigated, the black nationalist leader's wife charged that the government itself--probably the security police--was responsible.

'What Government Does'

"This is what this apartheid government does," she said on returning to Brandfort. "It has declared war on the oppressed people of this country. I feel like every other black man. What happened here is minute compared to what others in the (black ghetto) townships have suffered."

Eleven people were killed in South Africa's continuing civil strife Tuesday, according to police reports, as rioting flared again outside Durban, near East London, another Indian Ocean port, and in Witbank, a town in the eastern part of Transvaal province.

Three Indian men were stabbed to death, and their bodies were doused with gasoline and burned on a pile of tires by blacks outside Durban, raising fears of renewed clashes there between blacks and members of the Asian group. More than 70 people died in rioting around the city last week, and four more bodies were found Tuesday in the ashes of buildings burned then.

Incidents of unrest were also reported Tuesday in Soweto, the huge black township outside Johannesburg, where police and troops detained an entire secondary school of more than 400 students; in Mamelodi outside Pretoria, the capital, and in the eastern region of Cape province.

Over the last year, at least 606 people have been killed nationwide, according to statistics issued Tuesday by the South African Institute of Race Relations.

The state of emergency declared by President Pieter W. Botha three weeks ago, imposing virtual martial law in the black townships around Johannesburg, in the Vaal River region south of here and in the eastern Cape, appears to have reduced the level of unrest in most of those places--but is not preventing its spread to other areas that had been relatively calm.

Consumer boycotts launched over the weekend by blacks in Johannesburg, Pretoria and Cape Town are beginning to have an impact on white-owned businesses in the three cities, bringing calls by local chambers of commerce for urgent government action on black demands.

Speculation on Reforms

The authorities sought Tuesday to discourage further speculation that Botha will announce major political, economic and social reforms when he speaks to a meeting of his ruling National Party in Durban on Thursday. What he most likely will do, well-informed party sources said, is to reiterate his program of gradual change, which was outlined to Parliament in January and elaborated on in speeches in April and June.

Gerrit Viljoen, one of the Cabinet ministers in charge of black affairs, has said in two speeches to white audiences that reforms will be made only within the present political framework of racial separation; that housing, education and other facilities will continue to be segregated, and that change will be achieved in stages.

However, Viljoen warned South African whites to prepare for "many and drastic changes ahead" because "the white will exchange his former position of dominance and only decision-maker for one of a partner" in a system in which no racial group will have a decisive voice in the country's affairs.

Murpheson Morobe, one of the few leaders of the multiracial United Democratic Front who has not been arrested, said at a clandestine press conference Tuesday that the government cannot restore peace without meeting basic black demands--among them universal suffrage, the release of all political prisoners, the revocation of bans on organizations such as the underground African National Congress, and an end to restrictions on where blacks can work and live.

"There must be moves by the government to restructure itself and abolish apartheid," Morobe said. "We do not need a tinkering with the system."

There was speculation that the attack on the Mandela home in Brandfort--which left in cinders all the contents of the small, four-room house and a nearby medical clinic that Mrs. Mandela runs--was the work of the right-wing death squads that have been held responsible for a series of recent murders of black leaders and attacks on their homes.

'Future People's Republic'

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