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S. African Crackdown Sparks Rebel Offensive : ANC Takes State of Emergency as Declaration of War; Urban Bombings Increase Sharply

July 14, 1986|MICHAEL PARKS | Times Staff Writer

Also, the attacks have moved from border regions and remote rural areas to the country's cities and the black townships that surround them, following closely the rebels' declared goal of increasing the level of violence until it reaches that of an armed insurrection.

And although police say they have received help from the black community in tracking down "these trained terrorists" who have been arrested recently, many more are clearly being sheltered in the townships. People who might have informed the police before are now threatened with death if they do so.

"We moved into a new phase of the ANC's armed struggle in the past few months," Lodge commented, "but the state of emergency appears to be accelerating the transition. We are far, far from a full-fledged guerrilla war, an armed insurrection or anything like that, but we do seem to be moving more according to the ANC strategy than the government's."

'Loss of Command'

Lodge speculates that the apparent rebel decisions to infiltrate more guerrillas into the country from their bases elsewhere in southern Africa, to recruit more black youths for the Spear of the Nation and train them here and to distribute more weapons in the country's black ghettoes have all contributed to "a loss of command and control . . . and of discipline."

"These bombings and the other attacks on 'soft' or civilian targets are too recent and still too few to form a definite pattern, and they may be just a few units striking back against the state of emergency," Lodge said. "But once your operatives cross such a threshold and are not punished, they will likely cross that threshold again and again. . . . That would make all this the start of urban terrorism on a broad and frightening scale."

Joe Slovo, a member of the top rebel leadership, chief of staff of its military wing and chairman of the South African Communist Party, acknowledged the possibility in a recent British Broadcasting Corp. interview in London that undisciplined units, angered by the government crackdown under the state of emergency, might be responsible for the bombings and, if so, the leadership would bring them back into line.

No 'Campaign of Terror'

"We are not moving toward a new strategy in our military activity," Slovo said in the BBC interview. "We are not now embarking upon a campaign of terror against civilians."

Civilian deaths were "tragic," said Slovo, who is white and a member of the guerrillas' old guard leadership, but were "virtually unavoidable." If ANC units were responsible, he said, the organization would try to restore discipline.

"I wouldn't condemn them publicly," Slovo added. "I would understand why they did it, and I would hope that the broad policy that we all support would be pursued without these kinds of diversions. . . . But without armed struggle, I'm afraid, there is no way forward for us."

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