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South African Coloreds Turn Against Regime : Mixed-Race Citizens Angered at Repression, Feel Government Betrayed Their Trust, Hopes

September 15, 1985|MICHAEL PARKS | Times Staff Writer

MITCHELL'S PLAIN, South Africa — A year ago, Martin Arendse had hopes that South Africa "was finally coming right."

With the introduction of a new constitution that brought Coloreds--people of mixed race like himself--as well as Indians into the previously all-white Parliament and into the Cabinet, he thought that South Africa was on the road to real reform.

"We could see apartheid going, the blacks being brought into the political system as we had been, and this beautiful country finally living up to its true potential," Arendse said the other day, recalling the hopes that not only Coloreds and Indians but also most whites here shared.

"Were we ever wrong! The reforms that we placed so much faith in were one of the biggest political frauds the world has ever seen. We were betrayed by the government and by our own political leaders. And that is why there is hell to pay now. We are seething, simply seething."

Quivering With Anger

Arendse, a cautious, conservative man of 58, prides himself on being slow to anger and "always open to reason," but his outrage now is such that he was quivering as he spoke.

What changed his attitude from one of "give it a chance" to hardened opposition to the government and its efforts to incorporate Coloreds and Indians into the new national political structure were the tough police measures taken to curb the demonstrations here in the last two weeks against apartheid, South Africa's system of racial separation and white-minority rule.

And with this transformation have died the government's hopes for enlisting the country's 2.9 million Coloreds as political partners, along with 900,000 Indians, in dealing with black demands for majority rule.

Classified as a separate race under South African law, the Coloreds, about 80% of whom live in Cape province, are mostly descended from European settlers who married the Khoikhois, or Hottentots, and other African peoples here, and from slaves that 17th- and 18th-Century Dutch traders brought from what are now Malaysia and Indonesia.

After methodically excluding the Coloreds from politics under apartheid, President Pieter W. Botha's ruling National Party sought to bring them back in a year ago, giving them--amid much controversy--their own house in the segregated, tricameral Parliament.

But even those elected a year ago to the House of Delegates no longer speak out to defend their participation in the new political system, and the Rev. Allan Hendrickse, chief Colored minister and a member of the national Cabinet, has virtually disappeared from public view during the unrest here.

"When we saw such naked police brutality, we had to ask ourselves what kind of fascist government we were supporting, what kind of totalitarian state we were living in," said Ben van der Wyk, a neighbor of Arendse in Mitchell's Plain, a largely middle-class Colored suburb 15 miles outside Cape Town.

"Here, in our own quiet little street, we saw police and soldiers beating children no more than 12 years old with whips and batons. We saw them deliberately firing tear gas canisters through the windows of houses where there were small children and elderly people. We saw them shooting their rubber bullets and their birdshot at the backs of boys running away and, yes, we even saw them deliberately shoot and kill a boy on the way home from the store on an errand for his granny."

Virtual Civil War

What angers people here and in the other segregated Colored suburbs around Cape Town is the sudden transformation of their peaceful communities into the newest battlefields of what appears to those in the midst of the conflict to be a virtual civil war.

Although some do blame the highly politicized and increasingly radical Colored youths for provoking the government and police with anti-apartheid protests during the last month, most Coloreds here said that they now see the country's white regime as responsible for the violence that has exploded around Cape Town during the last two weeks, leaving at least 40 people dead.

Muslims Oppose Regime

"In our mosque, we were divided, almost 50-50, on the government, the reforms, whether to participate and all that," Ebrahim Kadir, a carpenter from Athlone, another Colored township, said, classifying himself as "one of those who said, 'Give it a chance,' even when common sense should have told me not to trust this government."

"Well, that was a month ago. Today, to a man, from the imam (religious leader) to even those who work for the (apartheid) system itself, we are against this government and, as followers of Islam, many think that we should launch a holy war, a jihad, against apartheid and bring it to an end once and for all."

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