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S. African Rightists Storm Hall, Break Up Ruling Party's Rally

May 23, 1986|MICHAEL PARKS | Times Staff Writer

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — Two thousand right-wing extremists stormed a provincial city hall Thursday night, breaking up a meeting of South Africa's ruling National Party in a violent protest against the government's proposed political concessions to blacks.

The two-hour melee forced the cancellation of the Nationalist rally in Pietersburg, 210 miles northeast of here, where Foreign Minister Roelof F. (Pik) Botha was to have argued the government's case for political "power-sharing" with the country's black majority.

Police finally used tear gas to drive members of the ultra-right Afrikaner Resistance Movement, wearing their swastika-like emblems, from the Pietersburg city hall and the surrounding streets--but not before they had beaten many of the National Party supporters, ripped party posters and flags from the walls and threatened to assault Botha if he appeared.

Hoisted to Stage

Before the police acted, Eugene Terre'Blanche, leader of the resistance movement, was hoisted by his followers onto the auditorium stage. Standing defiantly in the place where Botha was to have spoken, he declared that the group's triumph in Pietersburg would contribute to the fall soon of the Nationalist government and then to the establishment of an all-white Afrikaner state.

The action by the white-supremacist group, regarded only a year ago as of little political consequence, dramatized the growing backlash among South Africa's conservative whites over the country's continuing racial unrest and their resistance to any changes, however minimal and gradual, in the apartheid system of racial separation and minority white rule.

Both the National Party and the Afrikaner Resistance Movement had seen the Pietersburg rally as key test of strength following the disruption of a similar Nationalist meeting last month and Terre'-Blanche's boasts that Botha would not be allowed to speak. The victory of the far rightists thus was a clear humiliation for President Pieter W. Botha's government, which has always depended on the support of the Dutch-descended Afrikaners.

Pik Botha, who is not related to the president, told party workers later that the incident shows the extent of the government's difficulties, which he said are rarely appreciated by those demanding faster, more sweeping changes. If not checked, he said, the growing544239468impossible to resolve the country's problems.

Threatens Violence

Terre'Blanche, a 41-year-old former policeman, spoke later at his own rally at a sports stadium in Pietersburg. He reiterated the Afrikaner Resistance Movement's opposition to any racial integration, any sharing of power with blacks, any concession to black grievances.

If the result is more racial unrest, he said, his group would "restore order with violence, our own violence."

What the Afrikaner Resistance Movement wants, he said, using the Afrikaans word for farmers, is a "Boer state" where strict apartheid would remain the basic ideology. Such a state would include Transvaal province, the Orange Free State and northern Natal province, he said.

"We Afrikaners, we Boers did not come here to develop this land and then to give it over to the Kaffirs"--a derogatory word for blacks--"and to leave," he said. "This is our home. We have nowhere else to go."

Whites Deeply Split

The growing popularity of the Afrikaner Resistance Movement, along with two far right political parties, reflects the deep divisions among South Africa's 5 million whites, about 60% of whom are Afrikaners, on how to deal with the growing black revolt against continued minority rule.

The hard-liners believe that the government has been too soft in curbing the riots, which have now claimed more than 1,600 lives in less than two years, and that its reforms will only bring more unrest.

In Cape Town, the government introduced legislation Thursday that would permit the police to detain persons they believe to be involved in civil unrest for as long as six months without charge or trial.

Current security laws limit such detention to two weeks, although they also permit indefinite detention of suspects in security cases for interrogation. The proposed law would authorize the president to extend the detention period to help quell serious unrest without proclaiming a formal state of emergency.

Wants Longer Detentions

In a memorandum submitted with the bill to Parliament on Thursday, the government said that to "normalize an unrest situation" the police must often "remove persons from the community" but that two weeks is not sufficient time.

The only requirement for a person's imprisonment without trial for six months would be the opinion of a senior police officer--a lieutenant colonel or above--that it would "contribute to the termination, combatting or preventing of public disturbances, disorder, riot or public violence."

Those detained could appeal to the minister of law and order, but not to a court; after three months, a government board would review their cases, but the police still need not release them.

Earlier, the government introduced legislation that would allow the minister of law and order to declare a "state of unrest" anywhere in the country and then establish what could amount to virtual martial law there.

Crossroads Toll Increases

Meanwhile, four more bodies were found at the Crossroads squatter settlement outside Cape Town, bringing to 26 the number of blacks killed there in five days of fighting between rival groups for control of the shantytown of 120,000.

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