The South African police behaved like an ''occupying army controlling enemy territory'' while combating recent black unrest in the townships, says a report by the Southern African Catholic Bishops' Conference.
The report is the most ambitious attempt yet by a nongovernment source to assess the role of the police in the three months of black unrest that left more than 150 dead.
It differs sharply from police assurances during the unrest that most blacks in the townships ''openly and publicly expressed their gratidude toward the state'' for restoring law and order, as a police spokesman put it.
To the contrary, the church group says whites have been dangerously misled about black views of the police.
''Instead of being accepted as protectors of the people, the police are now regarded by many people in the black townships as disturbers of the peace and perpetrators of violent crime,'' it states.
The Southern African Catholic Bishops' Conference, made up of 33 bishops from South Africa, Namibia (South-West Africa), Swaziland, and Botswana, based its report on sworn affidavits from about 45 residents of black townships. Many of those giving statements were later cross-examined by lawyers.
The report accuses the police of ''reckless or wanton violence'' against blacks, including indiscriminate use of firearms and teargas, assaults and beatings, rape, and provocative and callous conduct.
Blacks have accused the police of: