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3 Black Activists Killed, 3 Wounded in Clashes Between Anti-Apartheid Groups

December 27, 1985|MICHAEL PARKS | Times Staff Writer

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — Three black South African political activists were killed and three others were seriously wounded in fights between rival anti-apartheid groups, police reported Thursday.

Supporters of the United Democratic Front, a multiracial coalition of anti-apartheid groups, clashed several times in the last three days with members of the militant black Azanian People's Organization near Paarl, 35 miles northeast of Cape Town, according to police.

The reported clashes may mean a renewal of the bitter feuding between the two organizations that left more than 20 people dead in months of internecine fighting earlier this year, a conflict that diverted the energies of both from their battle against South Africa's apartheid system of racial segregation and minority white rule.

Differ on Ideology

The two organizations differ sharply in basic ideology, on the strategy that blacks should use to bring apartheid to an end and on what kind of political system should replace it. The United Democratic Front, an alliance of 650 groups, accepts white participation in the anti-apartheid movement and later in the country's government, but the Azanian People's Organization rejects it.

On Thursday afternoon, police separated the two groups at Mbekweni, a black township outside Paarl, firing tear gas to drive them off after the United Democratic Front supporters allegedly stoned the police. Later, police found a man, apparently a victim of the feuding, who had been beaten by four other blacks and then set afire with gasoline-soaked tires placed around his body.

In Durban, several cars belonging to local officials of the United Democratic Front were destroyed by fire outside their homes, police said, offering no suggestion about who was responsible.

Eight Blacks Slain

Eight other blacks were reported killed in civil unrest elsewhere in the country--all but one in clashes with other blacks.

Altogether, at least 76, including 56 Zulu and Pondo tribesmen killed in fierce tribal fighting, died violently over the three-day Christmas holiday here.

Five men reportedly died in Christmas Day fighting between migrant laborers living in workers' hostels and youths trying to enforce the call of black militants for a "black Christmas" in Soweto, the sprawling black satellite city southwest of Johannesburg.

Police said they had a report of the clash but that security forces had broken it up with tear gas without any deaths. Residents of Soweto's Dobsonville area, however, gave detailed eyewitness accounts to reporters, who are prohibited under press restrictions accompanying the five-month-old state of emergency from covering Soweto unrest themselves.

Four of those killed, according to Soweto residents, were workers from a Dobsonville hostel who refused to cancel their holiday party in observance of the "black Christmas." Most migrant workers, desperate for employment, have long been at odds politically with the more radical township youths, these sources said. The hostel residents have now vowed to take revenge on the youths, probably this weekend.

The other person reported killed in the incident was one of Soweto's "black Christmas marshals," who have been enforcing the radical youths' proclaimed boycott against white-owned stores and calling on residents to observe it. These youths are described as determined to bring the hostel residents into line politically with themselves.

The youths also raided a number of shebeens, Soweto's neighborhood speak-easies, breaking up Christmas parties and destroying liquor, according to the township's residents.

Suspected Informer Slain

Police on Thursday found the body of a man, apparently a suspected police informer or other government collaborator, who had been beaten and then set on fire by a crowd of blacks in Soweto. They said they fired tear gas to disperse the crowd but that the man was already dead.

At Tinus, a black township near Fort Beaufort in Cape province, a man was killed when police opened fire with shotguns at a stone-throwing crowd, according to police headquarters in Pretoria.

In Durban, police said the death toll in the Christmas Day clash between Zulu and Pondo tribesmen at Umbumbulu had risen to 56. The situation remained very tense, a police spokesman said, but with a heavy police presence separating the two warring groups, there were no major clashes Thursday.

But hundreds of Zulus, fearing renewed fighting, fled from the hills south of Durban, seeking refuge with friends and relatives in towns closer to the city and in its Red Cross center.

Challenges to Fight

A Zulu refugee, Colleen Gwala, told reporters that the fighting began when about 2,000 Zulus, armed with spears, clubs, knives, machetes and some shotguns, assembled along the Umbogintwini River on Christmas Eve, calling on their historic rivals, the Pondos, to fight.

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