Any impression that violence in South Africa has subsided, perhaps created partly by restrictions on media coverage, was shattered this past week. At least 19 people have died since last Sunday -- a jolting reminder that the violence that has racked South Africa for 14 months and claimed more than 850 lives has not gone away.
The South African government imposed media restrictions Nov. 2, requiring journalists to receive police permission to cover unrest in areas under a state of emergency. This permission is often denied, and journalists must rely solely on police accounts of events. Thus it has been difficult to independently verify the level of violence recently. But events of the past several days tell an unmistakable tale of continuing unrest.
While the immediate causes of violence differ from township to township, the underlying cause is clear enough: rebellion against continued white rule.
As Gen. Bert Wandrag, head of South Africa's counterinsurgency force, said: ``The objective is to create so-called liberated areas in the black townships, from where the terrifying war can be spread to the cities and white suburbs to bring about the downfall of the government.''
Yesterday thousands of blacks clashed with police in the Mamelodi township near Pretoria. Violence broke out after blacks marched through the streets protesting high rents, government restrictions on how blacks must conduct themselves at funerals, and demanded the withdrawal of white policemen from their township. Some blacks that observed the confrontation said 6 people were killed. The police reported one death and 20 arrests.
Aside from being a reminder that the black townships remain highly volatile, this past week's upheaval showed how violence in South Africa is broadening into areas previously untouched.
Violence occured Sunday and Monday in Queenstown in the eastern Cape Province and on Tuesday in Leandra, 50 miles from Johannesburg. Both are areas that up to now have been relatively calm.