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Admission Fees Would Bar Most Blacks : Johannesburg to Restrict Use of Parks

November 26, 1987|MICHAEL PARKS | Times Staff Writer

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — The Johannesburg city council is planning to fence the city's six largest parks and to charge admission in order to limit their use by blacks on weekends and holidays.

The council's decision, strongly opposed by its liberal members as racist and likely to bring more political unrest to Johannesburg, follows fighting at two city parks last month in which two white men were stabbed to death and other whites were injured by rioting blacks.

"We have neglected our duty," said Danie Malan, chairman of the council's recreation committee, arguing that unrestricted use of the parks by "all and sundry" had made them increasingly unsafe.

The adult admission fee, the equivalent of $1, will make the parks too expensive for many of the blacks who now spend weekends and public holidays relaxing in them. The fee for children will be the equivalent of 25 cents. Area residents, who are white, will get free passes.

Proponents of the new measures argued that admission fees and other restrictions are the only alternative to reserving them once again for whites only. Johannesburg's parks were largely desegregated more than a decade ago, and most are now used less by whites than by blacks, whose barren, outlying townships rarely contain any green space.

However, if racial integration is to succeed in South Africa, according to the proponents of the measures, whites must not feel threatened as blacks begin to use facilities previously reserved for them.

But Conrad Berger, secretary of the Johannesburg Metropolitan Action Group, a local civic organization, commented, "The real solution is the acquisition of additional park space and its proper management."

Fatal Stabbings

Most of the parks to be fenced were the scenes of almost anarchical clashes this year between groups of blacks and police seeking to control drinking and fighting. Police have used tear gas and birdshot with increasing frequency to disperse mobs of bottle- and stone-throwing black youths at the city's parks.

After the fatal stabbings of the two white men on a holiday weekend last month, officials charged that the rioting was politically motivated, part of a strategy by black militants to shake the confidence of whites and make the country ungovernable.

"This incident was preplanned--the picnic, the drinking and the ensuing incidents," a state prosecutor said, asking that five black youths charged with the two murders be denied bail. And a member of Parliament from the ruling National Party said the rioters intended to give the world "the impression that our country is ungovernable and our cities are seething with bloodshed and unrest."

In its action Tuesday, the Johannesburg city council also decreed that those admitted to the parks be searched for weapons and liquor. It imposed limits, averaging one person for every 25 square yards of parkland, on the number of people who can be admitted. And it voted to spend about $500,000 a year for additional guards to enforce the new regulations.

Mesh fences, topped by barbed wire, will be erected around three parks immediately at a cost of almost $500,000, city officials said; the other three parks will be fenced early next year. The six parks range in size from 25 to 40 acres.

In the country's continuing civil strife, three more blacks have been killed around Pietermaritzburg in Natal province, police in Pretoria reported. They were victims of the feuding between members of the United Democratic Front, a coalition of anti-apartheid groups, and Inkatha, the predominantly Zulu political movement led by Chief Mangosuthu Gatsha Buthelezi.

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