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Botha Faces Mounting Pressure to Open Talks : Broad Spectrum of S. African Leaders Urges Dialogue With Blacks to Defuse Growing Crisis

August 31, 1985|MICHAEL PARKS | Times Staff Writer

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — After three days of rioting in Cape Town that left at least 28 dead and hundreds injured, President Pieter W. Botha came under mounting pressure Friday from South Africa's churches, universities, business community and the political opposition to open a dialogue with black leaders on ending the national crisis.

Calls for urgent negotiations on sweeping reforms to end the unrest came from a broad national spectrum and included demands that as a basis for the talks, the government commit itself now to ending apartheid.

There were also calls, from whites as well as blacks, for the release of Nelson Mandela, imprisoned leader of the African National Congress, so that he can participate in the proposed talks and in a constitutional convention that could follow. Mandela, serving a life sentence for sabotage, is increasingly seen as an essential participant if unrest is to be checked.

Fewer Clashes Reported

The riot-torn black and Colored (mixed-race)townships around Cape Town remained tense Friday, but fewer clashes were reported between police and youths, who had fought running battles Wednesday and Thursday. Police put the official death toll at 28, but physicians working at clinics in the area said the total was as high as 30.

The Cape Town riots, which were among the worst outbreaks of violence in a year of unrest that has claimed at least 675 lives, seemed to have dramatized for people of all races the country's urgent need for a program to ensure peaceful reform and an end to violence.

Frederick van Zyl Slabbert, leader of the Progressive Federal Party, a liberal white opposition group, called on all South Africans to come together in a national convention to work out a formula for power-sharing and write a new constitution that would end white-only rule.

Speaking at his party's annual conference Friday in Durban, Slabbert addressed his appeal "to all who love this country and would not want to see its people and its resources destroyed in senseless violence." He said that little time remains to find a peaceful solution and prevent civil war.

New Plea From Clergymen

In Cape Town, Christian leaders, for the second time in two weeks, called on the government to negotiate a new political and economic system with all black leaders, including those now in jail and in exile. They also urged Botha to lift the six-week-old state of emergency that has placed more than 60 black townships under virtual martial law.

Archbishop Philip Russell, head of the Anglican Church in South Africa, said, "There must be promise of dismantling apartheid--and only the state can give this undertaking--if the violence is to be ended."

The Muslim leaders of the Indian and Colored communities also called for negotiations that would end apartheid and bring "peace and prosperity, freedom and justice for all."

Abubakr Najaar, president of the Islamic Council of South Africa, said in Cape Town:"The remedy and the initiative for peace lie with the government. If they are not prepared to talk to the real leaders, we will never have peace in this land."

Chief Mangosuthu Gatsha Buthelezi, leader of South Africa's 6 million Zulus, said that President Botha's insistence on continuing a racially based political system is a prescription for "revolution and war."

Buthelezi said that political compromises between blacks and whites could be worked out if Botha and the ruling National Party agreed to end apartheid. He added that "a very substantial proportion of white South Africans" would back Botha if he took real steps toward reforms.

Justice A. John Milne, president of the Natal provincial Supreme Court, urged in a speech in Durban that a bill of rights like that in the U.S. Constitution be made a priority in political discussions on the country's future so that judges can play an active role in establishing fairness and equity.

Strong statements also came from businessmen.

"Peace cannot exist without hope, and the country is looking to the government to give the lead," Andrew Peile, president of the Cape Town Chamber of Commerce, said. What is now needed, he said, is a government timetable for "real dialogue" and "for the dismantling of apartheid."

On Thursday, three leading business groups--the Assn. of Chambers of Commerce of Southern Africa, the Federated Chambers of Industry and the National African Federated Chambers of Commerce--called upon the government to open a dialogue with all black leaders and to accept an agenda excluding nothing from the discussions. Similar calls came from Gavin Relly, chairman of the Anglo-American Corp., the nation's largest company, and from Anton Rupert, a leading Afrikaner businessman.

'Momentum for Reform'

A group of prominent businessmen will meet, probably this weekend, with representatives of the outlawed African National Congress at its headquarters in Lusaka, Zambia, to try to get a dialogue started.

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