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5 Die in Political Feud Among S. Africa Blacks

December 27, 1987|MICHAEL PARKS | Times Staff Writer

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — Five people were reported killed in continued political feuding between rival South African black anti-apartheid groups despite pleas from their leaders for peace and reconciliation.

Four men died in black townships outside Pietermaritzburg, the Natal provincial capital, where more than 230 people have been killed in recent months in a murderous feud between supporters of the United Democratic Front, a national anti-apartheid coalition, and those of Inkatha, the predominantly Zulu and conservative political movement led by Chief Mangosuthu Gatsha Buthelezi.

Police headquarters in Pretoria said Saturday that the four had been shot or stabbed to death in various "incidents" over the Christmas holidays in Pietermaritzburg's troubled townships, but they gave few details.

Police, Blacks Clash

Police said, however, that they clashed three times with groups of blacks, presumably members of the United Democratic Front rather than Inkatha, who had "gathered illegally," and that they had dispersed these "mobs" with shotgun fire and, after they had been shot at themselves, with rifle fire.

A fifth man, also black, was killed by unidentified "security forces" in Kwamakutha, one of the black townships outside of Durban, in what police headquarters simply described as "an incident." Two other men were arrested at the same time, police said.

This brought the officially reported death toll in Natal to 31 in the past week, dramatizing the government's apparent inability, despite the 18-month-old state of emergency, to restore order in the riot-torn province, where an average of three to four people a day are killed--with the death toll sometimes rising to eight or nine a day.

The rest of the country, in contrast, observed its quietest Christmas in four years, and government officials credited the harsh measures taken under the state of emergency for this relative calm.

Claiming 3 million members in 750 affiliates, the United Democratic Front is South Africa's largest anti-apartheid organization. It demands a new political system based on the principle of one person, one vote. Implicitly, it has also aligned itself with the African National Congress, the principal guerrilla group fighting continued white-minority rule in the country.

Opposes 'Armed Struggle'

Inkatha, which says it has 1.3 million members, also opposes apartheid, South Africa's system of racial separation and minority rule, but it is committed to working for change from within and is willing to recognize the "group rights" of whites. Inkatha strongly opposes the ANC's "armed struggle."

Mediation efforts, begun last month but now stalled, are scheduled to resume in January with religious leaders, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu, taking part. Up to now, the discussions have been largely under the chairmanship of white businessmen in Pietermaritzburg.

Buthelezi, in a Christmas message, blamed the continuing violence in Natal on President Pieter W. Botha's failure to implement political reforms with the expected speed. This failure, he argued, has allowed black radicals to win broader support.

"Where hope wanes, anger waxes," he said, "and where anger waxes in situations of hopelessness, the eruption of violence is an ever-present threat.

"It is we, the ordinary blacks of South Africa, who pay terrible prices for the underachievement of the government."

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