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Johannesburg's Public Facilities Desegregated

September 27, 1989|From United Press International

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — Johannesburg, the largest city in South Africa, today desegregated all municipal swimming pools, recreation centers and buses in a move "putting right that which was wrong," authorities said.

The city's management council, which is controlled by the ruling National Party, decided Tuesday night to end adherence to "petty apartheid" laws, following the results of a public opinion survey on segregated public facilities.

The anti-apartheid Five Freedoms Forum welcomed the decision by the executive body of Johannesburg's City Council but called on the new government of President Frederik W. de Klerk to repeal segregation in hospitals and schools and to scrap the controversial Group Areas Act--a pillar of apartheid controlling where people live on the basis of race.

The council's decision--over the objections of white conservatives who branded the move a "sellout" of the white minority--covers 21 recreation centers, 14 swimming pools and about 396 city buses for whites and 69 reserved for blacks, officials said.

Johannesburg Transport Department Director Ed Curtis said complete desegregation of the city's bus line, carrying 36 million whites and 14 million blacks a year, should take about two months to implement.

He declared it a victory for the individual bus driver and said it should save millions of dollars for the Transport Department, which faces a $10-million loss this year, by the elimination of segregated bus terminals and buses.

"Our bus drivers are in an impossible situation at the moment with having to determine somebody's race," Curtis said. "This will take a load off their shoulders."

Blacks-only buses, identified by a green plate in the window, offer lower fares than whites-only buses and will remain in service to avoid unnecessary hardship for black passengers unable to pay the higher fare, Curtis said.

The council's decision followed release of survey results among 88,742 whites in the city. More than 50% favored desegregating buses and recreation centers. Although only 30% favored desegregated pools, they were also included in the council order because they were never officially segregated.

The decision rescinds enforcement of segregated facilities under the 1953 Reservation of Separate Amenities Act, which allows local authorities to segregate public facilities even if equal amenities are unavailable for other race groups.

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