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Fire Destroys Free-Mandela Group's Office

March 06, 1986|Associated Press

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — A fire today destroyed the headquarters of a group working for the release of jailed black leader Nelson Mandela. The group's spokesman blamed security police, but authorities termed the charge "ludicrous" and arrested the man.

Elsewhere, four blacks were reported killed in unrest around the country, including a bus driver who was stoned to death Wednesday night in the black township of Soweto when a mob attacked his bus.

Spokesman Pat Rogers said this morning that the Putco Bus Co. has suspended indefinitely all service to the community of 1.5 million located near Johannesburg. The suspension cuts service to about 150,000 Sowetans who commute to Johannesburg, he said.

Aubrey Mokoena, publicity secretary of the Release Mandela Committee, said a bomb went off at 4 a.m. in the two-room office in central Johannesburg, setting a fire that demolished furniture, files, stacks of T-shirts and posters.

'The Security Cops'

Asked who he thought was responsible for the fire, Mokoena told reporters: "The security cops."

However, a police spokesman, who called Mokoena's charge "absolutely ludicrous," said there is no indication that a bomb caused the fire, although the possibility of arson is being investigated.

Police who arrested Mokoena hours after he made his remarks said the spokesman will be charged with a criminal act but they declined to be more specific.

Mokoena said he thinks that the fire was in retaliation for the Tuesday bombing of the central police headquarters in Johannesburg. He also said police wanted to make clear that "you guys must stop making noises about Mandela's release, and that we are the bosses."

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