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Black Slain on Eve of U.S. Official's Visit : S. African Activist Is Apparent Victim of Township Vigilantes

January 13, 1986|MICHAEL PARKS | Times Staff Writer

DUDUZA, South Africa — A black community leader was killed, apparently by black vigilantes, only a few hours before he and other anti-apartheid activists were to meet here Sunday with the U.S. State Department's top official on African affairs. The killing had no apparent connection with the visit by Assistant Secretary Chester A. Crocker.

Chief Ampie Mayisa, 58, was chairman of the Leandra Action Committee and leader of the United Democratic Front coalition of anti-apartheid groups in Leandra, about 75 miles east of Johannesburg. He was abducted from his home late Saturday by more than 20 khaki-uniformed, black-hooded vigilantes, his family said. His mutilated, partly burned body was found in a rubbish dump Sunday.

Crocker, who is visiting South Africa and was to meet Mayisa, said, "It was terrible that this should have happened." The family attributed the death to a continuing feud with pro-government groups in the black township and did not connect it to the planned meeting with Crocker. Other sources quoted by wire services cited continuing hostility between the United Democratic Front and the more conservative Zulus.

'System Is Responsible'

"The system is responsible," Joshua Mayisa, 23, said of his father's death, blaming apartheid. "The system planned this murder; the system got these vigilantes to attack; the system is working very hard to pit black against black and is succeeding."

Mayisa's attackers, armed with spears, machetes, knives and clubs, pulled him from the house and hacked him to death in front of his family, Joshua Mayisa said. They then put his body into the back of a truck and drove away. They also threw firebombs into the Mayisa house, burning it down.

When the family went to the police, "they just laughed," Joshua Mayisa said. "They told us, 'When you find your father, you can come and tell us where his body is.' We showed them the van (the attackers) had used and that still had my father's blood on the floor, but they just shrugged."

Later, a group of youths, describing themselves as members of "Concerned Leandra Residents," a previously unknown group, returned to the smoldering ruins of the Mayisa house and told reporters that they had killed Ampie Mayisa because he was "manipulating" the community, particularly its youth, and "provoking unncessary confrontations" with the government.

Crocker, on a three-day visit to South Africa, met with other black community leaders in Duduza, one of the townships strung through the industrial belt east of Johannesburg, but declined to discuss the talks. "I am here to see and listen and communicate but not make press statements," Crocker said.

Accompanied by Anglican Bishop Simeon Nkoane, Crocker was mobbed at times by Duduza residents wanting to tell him what South Africa's system of racial separation does to them and their families and asking him to end what many blacks here see as Reagan Administration support for the government of President Pieter W. Botha.

One of the residents he met was Selina Thobela, whose husband, Joseph, a leader of the Duduza Civic Assn., was detained when a state of emergency was proclaimed six months ago and whose two daughters were killed when the house was firebombed last year.

"It's tragic," Crocker told her, "just tragic."

For Crocker, the Duduza trip was a departure from his usual practice of restricting his meetings here to talks with the country's white officials. His critics have accused him of frequently being out of touch with South Africa's black majority and of contributing to the U.S. image as a supporter of the white minority regime. Crocker refused to discuss his reasons for visiting Duduza, but U.S. diplomats with him suggested that he wants "a broader, fuller view" of the South African crisis.

Police later briefly detained reporters covering the Crocker visit to the township and ordered them to leave. "Crocker? Who's he?" a police commander remarked.

Crocker earlier visited Angola to discuss the stalemated negotiations on independence for Namibia (South-West Africa), which Pretoria continues to administer in defiance of the United Nations, and he will meet with Foreign Minister Roelof F. (Pik) Botha in Cape Town today and Tuesday.

Nine months ago, the United States presented its own proposals to Angola, South Africa and the Namibian guerrillas of the South-West Africa People's Organization in an effort to break the deadlock. A major sticking point remains the withdrawal from Angola of thousands of Cuban troops.

Such a pullout, in turn, depends on settlement of the Angolan civil conflict between the Marxist regime in Luanda and Jonas Savimbi's guerrilla movement, which has had South African and U.S. support.

Crocker is expected to express American concern over South Africa's deepening crisis.

Debt Negotiations

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