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S. African human-rights leader warns chaos has become way of life for blacks

Life for South Africa's black majority is degenerating into a state of ``confusion'' and ``chaos'' because of the government's uncertain and often contradictory policy of so-called reform. The only clear-cut feature of President Pieter Botha's program is that it is being accompanied by ``ever greater repression'' against black political opposition.

So says Sheena Duncan, president of the Black Sash human-rights organization. Speaking at the group's annual conference, she warned that chaos was ``now the way of life in many black townships.''

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Indeed, in the black communities surrounding Port Elizabeth, where Ms. Duncan delivered her speech yesterday, black unrest continues to simmer. In the past week, at least eight have died in clashes between blacks and the police.

Referring to the debate in the United States over restricting business ties with South Africa, Duncan said, ``Nothing must be done which will cause one more person to lose a job'' in South Africa.

The Black Sash operates advice offices in most regions of South Africa, helping blacks cope with the web of so-called pass laws that restrict where they can live, work, and travel. That activity puts Black Sash workers, mostly white women, in close daily contact with blacks.

Duncan, who works in the Johannesburg office, said, ``We sit in the advice offices all day long, faced with people who literally do not know where the next meal is to come from, and we will not do one thing to make that situation worse.'' She pointed out that South Africa has no social security system.

But Duncan did not categorically reject the use of economic pressures to force change. Rather she placed the burden of proof on South African and foreign businesses to answer why in the face of disinvestment pressures they are suddenly concerned about the welfare of black labor when in the past they showed no concern.

Duncan said the business community needed to give blacks ``much more concrete evidence that free enterprise really does mean more freedom, more well-being, more peace with justice than any other economic system devised by man.''

In recent months, the business sector in South Africa has been urging the government to make fundamental changes in its policy of racial segregation. Duncan says this results not from altruism but from new pressures on South Africa that are increasingly economic in nature.

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