JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — Thousands of black squatters resumed fierce factional fighting today at the Crossroads settlement near Cape Town. Bishop Desmond Tutu went to the combat zone to try to mediate the conflict.
At least 17 people have been killed in the fighting since Monday and hundreds of shacks have been set ablaze, raising the number of black squatters left homeless in the past three weeks to an estimated 60,000.
Police Lt. Attie Laubscher said the intense, widespread fighting today involved about 3,000 combatants from each faction--one composed mostly of young black anti-apartheid militants and the other of older, more conservative black vigilantes trying to drive them from the area.
No new casualty figures were available, but police said hundreds more shacks were set afire in areas formerly controlled by the militants. Laubscher said police tried in vain to negotiate a halt to the battles, then sent in reinforcements and used tear gas in an effort to disperse the fighters.
Tutu and about 10 other clergymen went to Crossroads and met with leaders of the vigilantes. The 1984 Nobel Peace Prize winner met earlier in Cape Town with representatives of the militants.
Tutu told reporters after emerging from Crossroads that he hoped to arrange talks between the warring sides on Thursday. He said he saw one man killed in the fighting being carried away by fellow militants and also watched scores of shacks burning.
"It's like watching the workings of . . . a very bad novel coming together," Tutu said. "It is so nightmarish."
In Cape Town, the three chambers of Parliament resumed debate on proposed tough security laws that would give police broad powers to quell racial unrest.
The white chamber, dominated by the ruling National Party, was certain to adopt the measures, but the Asian and mixed-race chambers pledged to vote against the bills.
Fratricide at Crossroads, Page 2