JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — The South African government, which has effectively banned 23 anti-apartheid organizations this year, took its first action against a white pro-apartheid group Thursday, banning the extremist White Freedom Movement.
It marked the only time in 40 years of National Party rule that a right-wing white organization has been banned.
The group, also known by is Afrikaans name, the Blanke Bevrydingsbeweging (BBB), "consists of right-wing, fanatical extremists who favor violence to carry racism to its extreme," Law and Order Minister Adriaan Vlok said in issuing the banning order. As a result, Vlok added, the group constitutes a threat to public order and safety.
Psychiatric Exam Ordered
South Africa's white minority-led government has been under growing pressure to crack down on far-right organizations after a series of unsolved bomb attacks on the offices of anti-apartheid groups. That pressure reached a peak Tuesday when an avowed white racist opened fire on blacks in downtown Pretoria, killing six and injuring 17.
Barend Strydom, 23, a former South African policeman, appeared in court Thursday in connection with the incident and was ordered held for psychiatric evaluation. A physician who examined him said he showed no remorse and believed the shootings were in the interests of the country.
Strydom apparently had no connection with the White Freedom Movement, but he claims to be the leader of the White Wolves, a right-wing terrorist group that has in the past claimed responsibility for attacks on black political activists. He also says he is a member of the Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging (AWB), a far-right group that seeks to create a separate white state.
The AWB and other right-wing groups have condemned the shooting but have also said it shows the hopelessness and fears of whites. They warned Thursday of a white backlash in response to the government's crackdown.
The five-year-old White Freedom Movement, one of more than a dozen right-wing groups in South Africa, has said it supports the principles of Nazism and would banish South Africa's 130,000 Jews and move the 26 million blacks to homelands if it came to power.
Its leader, Johan Schabort, 51, a retired biochemistry professor and former member of the New York Academy of Science, warned Thursday that the banning would "force us underground."
Schabort told a Johannesburg newspaper that Tuesday's shootings were a sign that "whites are living under tremendous pressure and are being undermined by blacks."
Numbers Kept Secret
Schabort has in the past described himself as "further right than (Adolf) Hitler." He keeps membership numbers secret but claims "tens of thousands" of supporters.
In a 1987 issue of his group's newsletter, Kommando--Voice of the White Race, Schabort said whites have "a right and duty to protect the entire planet from the destructive rampage of the mud races." He defined such races as those that "historically and scientifically have proven they are inferior."
The government Thursday also restricted Schabort from participating in BBB activities, addressing groups of more than 10 people and leaving his hometown of Brits, west of Pretoria.
While a few right-wing whites have been arrested and convicted over the years on various charges, mostly involving illegal possession of arms, no conservative organization has been banned.
Leftist Groups Banned
However, dozens of left-wing anti-apartheid groups have been banned, including the African National Congress, which now wages guerrilla war against the Pretoria government from its headquarters in Zambia, the Pan Africanist Congress, a guerrilla group based in Tanzania, and the South African Communist Party.
In recent months a half a dozen buildings housing church, labor and community anti-apartheid organizations have been heavily damaged or destroyed, apparently by pro-apartheid groups. Police have made no arrests in those cases.
Meanwhile, a judge in Pretoria on Thursday acquitted three of 19 black activists in the so-called Delmas case, the country's longest-running treason trial. A verdict on the remaining defendants is expected in a few days. The most serious of the many charges against them are terrorism, murder and subversion.
The three-year-old case--named after the town where the trial was conducted before it was shifted to Pretoria--is seen as a trial of the United Democratic Front, an anti-apartheid coalition with 2 million members that was paralyzed by government restrictions earlier this year. The judge already has ruled that the front's role in stirring up violence in the Vaal triangle area south of Johannesburg during a black uprising there in 1984 amounted to treason.