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Million Blacks Stay Home to Protest S. Africa Vote; Violence Flares in Ghettos

May 05, 1987|United Press International

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — An estimated 1 million blacks stayed at home today to protest Wednesday's whites-only elections and security forces opened fire in five ghettos to quell violence.

Black radicals in the ghettos had earlier burned car-tire barricades, pulled other blacks out of vehicles and stoned buses and taxis to enforce the work boycott.

A spokesman for the government Bureau for Information confirmed independent reports of security force shootings in the black ghettos of Lamontville and Umlazi, near Durban. He said one person was wounded.

Stoning Triggers Gunfire

He said police also opened fire with shotguns in the Durban ghettos of Inanda, Chesterville and Kwamashu to disperse crowds of black youths who stoned police and private vehicles.

Township sources said ambulances were seen going into Lamontville and Umlazi after the prolonged sounds of shots ended.

Ghetto residents said Chesterville, Lamontville and Umlazi were sealed off by police and soldiers in armored personnel carriers.

In Cape Town's KTC squatter camp, part of the sprawling Crossroads shantytown, police fought pitched battles with black youths.

A motorist caught outside the squatter camp reported by car telephone that he saw tear gas clouds over the shacks and heard sounds that could have been shotgun fire.

Young militants in the sprawling Soweto township, where 2 million blacks live 10 miles from Johannesburg, effectively enforced the boycott. They patrolled the ghetto's streets, manning barricades, hurling stones at buses and taxis that defied the boycott and dragging passengers out of cars and buses.

Militants also burned car-tire barricades, torched a bus and stoned buses and cars in ghettos around Durban, where most residents stayed indoors.

Police refused to estimate the boycott's effectiveness but other sources said it was estimated up to 90% effective across the country. The independent Labor Monitoring Group said 1 million people stayed away from work in the major centers of Johannesburg, Durban, Pretoria, Port Elizabeth and Cape Town.

Groups Walk to Work

An exception was Pietermaritzburg, 100 miles northeast of Durban, where groups of 70 to 80 blacks intent on working armed themselves with clubs and sticks, and walked to work past the militants' barricades.

Employers expect a bigger boycott coinciding with Wednesday's elections, when white voters will choose 166 white lawmakers in a national election.

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