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10 Die in S. African Clashes Over Merging Tribal Areas

January 02, 1986|MICHAEL PARKS | Times Staff Writer

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — At least 10 blacks were killed Wednesday in tribal fighting over the South African government's proposed addition of 120,000 members of one tribe to a region ruled by another tribe.

In a further spread of this country's civil unrest, the conflict in Moutse, a once-quiet and conservative rural district 60 miles northeast of Pretoria, seems certain to bring even bloodier clashes as Moutse's residents, most of them of the Pedi tribe, resist their forced incorporation into the Ndebele tribal homeland, Kwandebele.

Members of the two tribes clashed early Wednesday, and four Ndebeles were stoned and clubbed to death in one incident. Moutse residents said they were part of an Ndebele raiding party trying to kidnap or kill a Pedi chief and thus weaken Pedi resistance to having their area merged with the Ndebele homeland. A fifth Ndebele was critically wounded, according to policemen who confirmed the incident.

Six more people were reported killed in pitched battles around Moutse's borders with Kwandebele, and local residents said the full death toll could be two or three times the 10 or 11 bodies found Wednesday. All but two of the dead were Ndebeles.

At nightfall Wednesday, more than 1,000 Ndebele warriors armed with spears, clubs, homemade guns and some automatic rifles, their foreheads marked with white crosses so they could be distinguished in the dark, had gathered at Siyabuswa, the Kwandebele capital, for what appeared to be a new assault on Moutse overnight. Reinforcements of riot police and troops were dispatched to the area.

'Prepared to Fight'

"A war has begun," Godfrey Mathebe, a Moutse businessman and political leader, said late Wednesday. "The Ndebeles have attacked and been repulsed, but we know they will attack again and we are prepared to fight to the last man. . . . This is the plan the South African government has for us--the elimination of Moutse, either by incorporation into Kwandebele or by the death of all its people."

Police reported that six people were killed in other incidents on Wednesday, bringing the total death toll for New Year's Day to at least 16 following a year in which more than 900 died in civil strife here.

Three of those six were apparently killed, police said, in fighting near Cape Town between a conservative black group known as the "fathers," who have grown tired of the militancy of youths calling themselves the "comrades" who have led most of the recent protests. At least six people have been killed in clashes that began last weekend, according to police accounts.

Two of the others were shot and killed by local black officials in Upington and Jansenville in Cape province, according to the police, when black mobs stoned and threatened to firebomb their homes. In addition, a Colored man--a man of mixed race--was fatally wounded by a police patrol firing shotguns to disperse an attacking mob at Bonteheuwel, near Cape Town.

In Durban, meanwhile, more than 5,000 black youths rampaged along the city's beachfront, assaulting white and Indian bathers, burning a police vehicle and stoning passing cars before riot police, firing volleys of tear-gas grenades and then birdshot, dispersed the mob. The police said that at least 10 blacks were injured.

Indians Alarmed

The incident, the fifth in a week, brought the country's civil strife closer than ever for thousands of whites relaxing on Durban's beaches during the holidays. It also alarmed many Indians who see themselves becoming targets, along with whites, of the mounting black anger.

Police in Durban acted quickly as black youths spilled out of a segregated beach area packed with more than 60,000 blacks into an adjacent, and much less crowded, beach reserved for Indians. But within minutes, more than 5,000 blacks were marching down the main road toward central Durban, singing anti-apartheid songs, assaulting almost everyone in their path, stoning motorists and forcing the police to pull back until reinforcements arrived.

Policemen fired more than 80 tear-gas grenades and then about 35 rounds of birdshot before the youths were driven back and eventually dispersed. Roads leading to the beachfront were sealed for more than 90 minutes as the police sought to restore order.

The fighting in Moutse had long been expected by critics of the government's efforts to establish tribal homelands for as many of the country's blacks as possible and thus remove them politically from white South Africa. Moutse's Pedi residents had warned repeatedly that they would oppose, by force if necessary, the proposed incorporation of Moutse into Kwandebele. Four people had been killed in clashes with the police and with Kwandebele vigilantes over the past two weeks.

Attackers Repulsed

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