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Apartheid Foe Hits Charge by Schuller on Terrorism

June 19, 1986|MARK I. PINSKY | Times Staff Writer

Replying to charges by the Rev. Robert Schuller, a leader of a South African opposition organization said Wednesday that the white minority regime in Pretoria--not his own group--practices "terrorism."

Alfred Nzo, general secretary of the banned African National Congress, South Africa's largest multiracial opposition organization, told the annual meeting of the Reformed Church in America that the government of P. W. Botha has "resorted to unprecedented brute force and state terrorism to assert its right to rule the country."

The ANC, Nzo said, represents "the only sane alternative to the policies of genocide pursued by the apartheid regime," and that his group's prestige "has never been higher inside South Africa and internationally."

Nzo's keynote address at the Doubletree Hotel in Orange had been scheduled for the grounds of the Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove, where all of the general synod's other sessions are being held this week.

But less than two weeks before the yearly gathering began, Schuller, founder of the 10,000-member congregation and host of the "Hour of Power" television show, informed the denomination's executive council that because the ANC was infiltrated by "violent elements," Nzo's address would not be permitted at the Crystal Cathedral.

Founded in 1912, the ANC eschewed violence until 1960, when 69 unarmed blacks were killed during a peaceful demonstration. Thereafter, the organization was declared illegal and a military wing, called "Spear of the Nation," was established. In the last 18 months it has been increasingly active, with guerrilla attacks reported two or three times a week. The South African government has charged the group with engaging in terrorism, and on May 21 attacked alleged ANC guerrilla facilities in three neighboring countries.

At a press conference after his address, Nzo said there had been no change in the ANC's policy of striking only military and police targets inside South Africa. He said he had no word of any opposition group taking responsibility for a car bombing that killed two women in the South African city of Durban earlier this week.

After Nzo's speech, a spokesman for Schuller said the evangelist stood by his decision and had no further comment, but added that Schuller had canceled a trip to South Africa scheduled for later this summer.

Although the ANC is not included on the U.S. State Department's list of terrorist organizations, officials earlier this week rebuffed an overture from a Nzo associate for meetings "at the appropriate level" in Washington. According to State Department spokesman Charles Redman, the department maintains regular contacts with the ANC.

Addressing about 500 delegates to the meeting as "dear brothers and sisters," Nzo described recent actions by the South African government as "an attempt to preempt the successful commemoration of the 10th anniversary of the Soweto uprising, which was marked with a show of unprecedented unity as millions of our people stayed away from work as a mark of remembrance."

Nzo thanked the delegates for providing the opportunity "to present our case for the effective isolation of the apartheid regime."

Wearing a yellow button that read "Free Nelson Mandela," imprisoned head of the ANC, Nzo said his invitation to speak to the church group "should be viewed in the background of concerted efforts by the apartheid regime to isolate our organization."

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