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Botha Imposes Tough Curbs on Cape Town

October 26, 1985|MICHAEL PARKS | Times Staff Writer

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — President Pieter W. Botha imposed a state of emergency late Friday on the Cape Town area, granting the police virtually martial-law powers, in an attempt to end two months of mounting anti-government protests there.

Even before the president's decree took effect, security police arrested more than 80 anti-apartheid activists, including clergymen, lawyers, teachers, students and civic leaders, in predawn raids in Cape Town and nearby areas in the region's largest roundup of government opponents. All are being held without charge under South Africa's security laws which permit "preventive detention."

Police Refuse Comment

Louis le Grange, South Africa's minister of law and order, said in a brief statement that "the unrest situation . . . has reached such proportions that the government has decided to declare a state of emergency in certain districts." Government and police spokesmen refused Friday night to discuss the scope, implementation or likely duration of the emergency.

Eight magisterial districts on the Cape of Good Hope peninsula, including Cape Town itself, are included in the decree, which gives the police and military virtually unlimited powers of arrest, permits indefinite detention in solitary confinement without trial, authorizes the imposition of curfews and travel restrictions, allows searches and seizures without warrants, lets the government close any business and establishes press censorship.

Two Months of Unrest

Nearly 70 people have died in the unrest in and around Cape Town in the past two months, according to police reports.

The United Democratic Front, a coalition of groups opposed to South Africa's apartheid, immediately denounced Botha's action as "brutal" and called upon its supporters "to remain firm in the difficult days that lie ahead and to be aware that we will have to rely on our own strength and determination to carry us through to a just and democratic social order."

In Cape Town, violence has spread from Colored, or mixed-race, areas into white neighborhoods, spurring whites to form vigilante groups to protect their homes and stores and, it appears from recent incidents, to attack black and Colored youths believed to be stoning motorists or barricading roads.

The government's imposition of the state of emergency followed rioting in central Cape Town on Thursday. In those riots, police officers battled anti-government demonstrators, chasing them and passers-by alike with whips and shotguns through downtown streets for more than three hours.

2 Banks Set Afire

Widespread unrest was reported Friday in most of Cape Town's Colored suburbs, with youths setting fire to two banks, several white-owned stores and a number of schools and government offices.

One man, a black, was reported killed near Paarl, north of Cape Town, on Friday morning when police fired shotguns to disperse residents of a squatter settlement being demolished by local officials. Residents said the man, Mphumzi Pikashe, 23, was riding a bicycle through the settlement when he was shot, and he was dead on arrival at a nearby physician's office. Police said they had no information on the incident.

Those detained in the predawn raids included most of the leaders of the United Democratic Front and its major affiliates still free in the Cape Town area, effectively immobilizing the main anti-apartheid organization in the region. Although police refused to provide their names or even to say how many were being held, civil rights lawyers confirmed the arrest of 66 people and said they were checking on more than 20 others.

'Angrier and Angrier'

"This indiscriminate detention and harassment will evoke a response the government may not be able to handle," Murphy Morobe, the United Democratic Front's acting spokesman, said in Johannesburg. "Our people are becoming angrier and angrier."

Meanwhile, the Rev. Allan Boesak, one of the country's most prominent anti-apartheid leaders and a founder of the United Democratic Front, who is facing trial on charges of subversion, persuaded a local magistrate to relax conditions of his bail order.

Boesak, president of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, no longer is confined to his home from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m., will not have to report to a local police station daily and may visit additional churches around Bellville, where he lives outside Cape Town. But he is still barred from political activities, from speaking to the press or attending funerals, which often serve as anti-government forums here.

Amounts to House Arrest

Boesak, whose arrest in late August sparked some of the first and bloodiest protests, complained that the original court restrictions imposed at government request amounted to house arrest and asked that they be modified. The magistrate said he would make a final decision next week on relaxing them further.

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