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Botha Curbing Black Schools : Calls for Expulsion of Student Activists

July 14, 1986|MICHAEL PARKS | Times Staff Writer

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — The South African government, faced with the prospect of renewed black political protests this week, laid down strict new school regulations Sunday for the millions of black students who have been in the vanguard of the anti-apartheid movement for the last two years.

President Pieter W. Botha, acting under the state of emergency he proclaimed June 12, issued decrees that effectively require the principals of all black schools to screen their students today and expel suspected political activists.

The government move, part of the broader crackdown on its opponents, is intended to prevent youthful black activists from continuing to use the schools as their bases by imposing much stricter discipline on those allowed to continue their classes.

Botha's orders also authorize principals to place students in classes according to their "previous proven scholastic achievements," although for some high school students this may mean demotion by as many as three grades, and to take whatever other measures they deem necessary for their schools' smooth operation. No action by a school administrator may be challenged, even in court, and Botha's new orders have the force of law.

Tough new security measures had already been announced for the scheduled reopening of black schools today after a prolonged mid-year holiday. All students apparently will be issued identity cards and required to show them when entering or leaving school grounds. Armed guards reportedly will be stationed at most schools, and teachers will be required to maintain strict discipline in their classes or face summary dismissal. Other measures have also been taken by the security forces but may not be reported because of censorship here.

The government is facing a second showdown today with the country's biggest labor federation, the 550,000-member Congress of South African Trade Unions, which called for a national "day of action" to protest the state of emergency and the detention without charge of about 200 union officials.

Although the federations's plans may not be reported in detail because the emergency regulations restrict news coverage, widespread industrial action--work stoppages, slowdowns, sit-down strikes and no-shows by black workers--is expected in such union strongholds as Johannesburg, the area east of Johannesburg, eastern Cape province and perhaps Cape Town and Durban.

Black labor unions have struck more than a dozen of the country's gold, diamond, copper and coal mines and nearly 150 retail stores in the last three weeks, demanding the release of their union leaders, and today's protests promise to be even more disruptive.

Major legal challenges to emergency rule are also expected today. In Durban, the Metal and Allied Workers Union will challenge the whole legal basis for emergency rule, which gives virtual martial-law powers to the police and army. In Johannesburg, two more unions will pursue a similar case, and in Cape Town further appeals will be lodged.

1.7 Million Affected

More than 1.7 million black students at approximately 7,000 schools are affected directly by the new regulations on black education and related security force actions. The new rules will probably be applied as well to students, numbering more than 2.5 million, in the country's tribal homelands.

The National Education Crisis Committee called the government's moves "a clear recipe for confrontation," predicting they would inflame black students in urban areas rather than end the country's youth-led protests.

The committee, which includes black community leaders from across the country, called on government officials "to address themselves to the real problems underlying the crisis in education." It urged an end to "inferior gutter education" for blacks and called for more and better-qualified teachers and for the release of students and teachers detained under the state of emergency.

Tantamount to Step Back

The latest presidential decrees, reasserting the government's primacy in educational matters, appear intended in part to end officially fostered roles for parents and communities in the running of black schools. This would amount to a step back from the political participation promised blacks under Botha's reform program.

The new measures were adopted and announced without consulting black teacher organizations or the National Education Crisis Committee, whose discussions with the government over the last nine months had brought an end in most areas to lengthy school boycotts by black students.

Braam Fourie, a top official of the government's education and training department, declared at a press briefing last week: "It has become quite clear that the interests of neither the pupils nor the parents are served by allowing this situation (in black schools) to continue indefinitely. Our department has a responsibility . . . to ensure that meaningful education is reinstated and no further disruption takes place during the rest of the school year."

Meanwhile, two more deaths were reported Sunday in the country's continuing civil unrest. A black man in his thirties was found stabbed and burned to death in the black satellite city of Soweto outside Johannesburg, apparently the victim of continuing clashes there between rival political groups. The body of a young teen-ager, presumably black but charred beyond recognition, was found in a burned-out car in the troubled tribal homeland of Kwandebele, northeast of Pretoria.

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