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Black Workers, Students Mount Protests in South Africa With Mixed Results

July 14, 1986|From Times Wire Services

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — Tens of thousands of black workers and students mounted separate protests today against the nationwide state of emergency, but many other blacks shunned the calls for strikes and boycotts.

Officials said attendance varied sharply at the nation's 7,000 black schools, which reopened today after a vacation prolonged by two weeks to set up new security systems--including identity cards for students.

Some schools were deserted, particularly in urban centers such as Johannesburg, Cape Town and Port Elizabeth. But other districts reported 70% to 90% of students attending.

The nation's largest black trade union federation staged a separate "Day of Action" to protest the detention of union leaders under the state of emergency declared June 12.

In Port Elizabeth, the protest strike appeared nearly complete, shutting down General Motors and other large firms, according to an estimate by the Labor Monitoring Group, a team of academics. But in Johannesburg, only about 20% of the black work force stayed home.

Elijah Barayi, president of the 500,000-member Congress of South African Trade Unions, was freed Friday after two weeks of detention, according to a spokesman for an affiliate union.

"That's probably one reason why there hasn't been widespread action today in the mines," said Marcel Golding of the National Union of Mineworkers. Barayi also is the miners union's vice president.

Golding said Barayi was "released under strict conditions on his movements and his rights." He must stay at home, and can't be quoted, Golding said.

In Port Elizabeth, a source said about half the city's work force showed up but left within an hour when they were warned by protest organizers that their homes would be burned if they stayed.

"We have no black staff at all," said one city employer. "The city is virtually deserted except for thousands of people who are streaming back to the townships."

Most high schools in Soweto, Johannesburg's black township, and in the Alexandra ghetto were nearly deserted, residents said. Boycotts also were reported in the Vaal region south of Johannesburg and in the East Rand, the industrial district east of the city.

Some schools in Pretoria's townships had a normal turnout and others only slight attendance, local reporters said.

Participation in the protests appeared far less widespread than on May 1 and June 16, when millions of blacks stayed home. Those protests were organized before the state of emergency took hold, making today's actions the first test of the anti-apartheid movement's ability to organize under the emergency measures.

On Sunday, President Pieter W. Botha issued rules requiring all black students to reapply for admission today and empowering school officials to refuse to admit students without giving reasons. (Story, Page 6.)

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