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South Africa Frees Dozens of Detainees : Government May Allow Nationwide Balloting by Blacks

August 13, 1986|Associated Press

DURBAN, South Africa — Dozens of political detainees were freed around South Africa today, and the governing National Party debated ways to preserve white power and meet black demands for social change.

Business Day, a Johannesburg newspaper, said Justice Frank Smuts confirmed the release of 42 detainees held in the Orange Free State town of Frankfort, after a ruling Monday by the Natal Province Supreme Court that the government exceeded its powers in parts of emergency regulations under which thousands of people have been held since June 12.

The South African Press Assn. said eight activists from Lenasia, an Asian township outside Johannesburg, were freed Tuesday.

A spokeswoman for the Detainees Parents Support Committee, the main independent monitoring group, said it is impossible to tell how many people have been released since the ruling.

But newspapers quoted lawyers around the country as saying a significant number of people have been freed.

Appeal Planned

Law and Order Minister Louis le Grange said Tuesday that the government will appeal the Natal court ruling.

On Tuesday, President Pieter W. Botha opened a two-day meeting of his National Party with a speech that suggested that a referendum or an early election might be held soon to seek white voters' endorsement of changes leading to a greater political role for blacks. However, his government rejects black demands for a one-man, one-vote system.

Today, J. Christian Heunis, minister of constitutional development and planning, announced at the party congress that the government may allow the country's first nationwide black elections. The balloting would choose members of a proposed advisory council to work out changes in the constitution.

Blacks in South Africa now vote in the 10 tribal homelands the government has designated as their national states and for local township councils. Blacks have never taken part in a national election.

"If the need exists in black communities to elect their representatives to a national council, we will assist with the division of the country on a regional basis for the election of such leaders," Heunis said.

Role of Council

The government has so far failed to induce black leaders to take part in the national council, which would be a first step toward involving the black majority directly in national affairs.

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