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Youths Blaming S. Africa for Machel's Death Riot in Zimbabwe, Attack Whites

October 22, 1986|MICHAEL PARKS | Times Staff Writer

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — Thousands of angry black youths, blaming South Africa for the air crash that killed President Samora M. Machel of Mozambique, rampaged through downtown Harare, the capital of neighboring Zimbabwe, for nearly three hours Tuesday, attacking South African offices and white passers-by.

The rioting mobs, totaling more than 5,000 youths armed with clubs, bricks and gasoline, smashed store windows, overturned cars, beat white shoppers and office workers, stoned the diplomatic missions of South Africa, Malawi and the United States and set fire to the South African and Malawian airline offices.

Numerous minor injuries were reported, but only one person required hospital treatment, the Zimbabwe News Agency said. Police reported arresting about 100, but witnesses accused the police of doing little to stop the rioting until after the attacks on the airline offices and diplomatic missions, when they used tear gas to disperse the youths.

The violence, the worst since Zimbabwe became independent six years ago, appeared to have been set off by charges in a state-owned Harare newspaper, the Herald, that South Africa was responsible for the crash of Machel's plane Sunday night that killed him and 33 others. The death toll previously was given as 29 by South Africa but was raised to 34 when Mozambique released the official list of casualties.

No Sign of Foul Play

"Despite all the denials--and Pretoria would hardly admit its guilt--the most likely cause of the crash remains a direct South African attack on the presidential plane," the Herald said in an editorial.

Although there is no evidence of any foul play, such suspicions are growing among South Africa's neighbors, which feel justified in doubting Pretoria's protestations of innocence because of its previous attacks on them and its threats only a week ago against Mozambique and Machel personally.

"South Africa stands in the dock until proved otherwise," President Kenneth D. Kaunda of Zambia said in Lusaka. "I accuse them openly."

Mozambique has made no accusations but repeated Tuesday that the circumstances of Machel's death "have yet to be clarified."

Joint Investigation Planned

To absolve itself of suspicion, Pretoria announced that the crash will be investigated by technical experts from South Africa, Mozambique and the Soviet Union, which manufactured the twin-jet Tupolev 134 airliner, and that their findings will be reviewed by a three-man commission under a respected South African Supreme Court justice. Experts from the International Civil Aviation Organization will also be invited to participate, the government said.

Saying that Pretoria will "go out of its way" to ensure that there is a thorough investigation that has international credibility, state-run Radio South Africa said in a commentary this morning that, "in the present near-hysteria in the international climate, this country has become a legitimate target for the most far-fetched accusations."

"In preparing to deal with the real threats that already exist, (South Africa) must . . . also be on the alert for new ones that may be created out of the fabrications of its obsessed opponents," the commentary said, reflecting government views. "There will certainly be those who will stick to their accusations regardless of the outcome of the inquiry. The circumstances of the tragedy provide much too valuable a weapon against South Africa for them to be put off by facts. . . . But it is important to get through to the more rational part of the world."

Pilot Quoted on Cause

But the suspicions were undoubtedly heightened by South African newspaper reports on Tuesday that the Soviet pilot of Machel's plane, one of 10 survivors of the crash, had said that he was shot down over the South Africa-Mozambique border as he was preparing to land at Maputo, the Mozambique capital, after a flight from Zambia.

The pilot, Vladimir Nduosselov, was then isolated in a South African military hospital in Pretoria, where physicians said he was suffering from a head injury and was acting "aggressively."

South African officials dismissed as "preposterous" his claim that the plane had been shot down and said that the crash appeared to have resulted from a series of pilot errors, compounded by bad weather, that took the aircraft away from Maputo and into South African airspace as it prepared to land.

Meets to Pick Successor

Maputo was reported in mourning but calm as the Central Committee of the Front for the Liberation of Mozambique, the ruling party known as Frelimo, continued its closed-door meeting to pick a successor to Machel and to review the war-torn, famine-stricken country's overall situation.

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