South Africa/ The shadow of violence lengthens. Unrest among Coloreds adds to Pretoria's woes
Just over a week after the government banned a mass protest march in Cape Town, the city is still counting the human and political costs of the civil violence. So far nearly 30 people have died, most from gunshot wounds following police action.
On the political front, the violence represents the most serious involvement of the Colored (persons of mixed-race descent) community in unrest that has involved mainly blacks. This suggests that:
Pretoria's attempt to gain support from the Coloreds by granting them representation in Parliament last year has been at best marginally successful.
There is a hardening of racial attitudes in the Cape Town area, where whites and Coloreds have lived on relaxed terms for generations.
Meanwhile, black and Colored unrest took a potentially serious turn this week, spreading for the first time into white areas.
Colored youths stormed a white suburb of Cape Town Wednesday night. And in another white community in the Cape Province two homes were firebombed by blacks.
In the past eight days of violence in Cape Town about 100 have been seriously injured, with many others having been beaten with whips.
More than 200 have been arrested -- and there are still daily confrontations among groups of young people and the police.
Main township roads are sometimes closed to traffic by burning barricades of tires. There continue to be reports of police brutality against young people and allegations of ``indiscriminate'' police assaults.
Conditions at schools for Colored and black pupils are reported by officials to be ``chaotic'' because of a continuing boycott of classes by most senior pupils.
Now even some government supporters are wondering if it would not have been better to have let the march take place.
Anti-apartheid activists planned to march to Pollsmoor Prison to show solidarity with imprisoned black nationalist leader Nelson Mandela. The march was squelched and its chief organizer, Allan Boesak, was detained.
The march organizers had promised that it would be peaceful -- provided police kept away.
Culturally, whites and Coloreds are close. They speak the same languages, English or Afrikaans, and belong to churches of the same denomination.
Sometimes members of families classified as Colored are able to ``pass'' as whites -- with the resultant economic and social benefits, not the least of which is the opportunity to educate their children at the better white schools. Those who pass are also able to live in the more attractive suburbs reserved for whites.
But now young Colored children are shouting insults at whites, such as ``Boer'' (meaning ``farmer'' in Afrikaans but also a slang word for ``police'') and slogans like ``kill whitey.'' It is sometimes dangerous for whites to venture near some Colored townships.
Colored members of the community who are perceived to be part of the government system are also in danger. These include Colored people who were elected to the Colored house of the new three-chamber Parliament. The new Parliament was opened up to Coloreds and Indians, but blacks were excluded.
Coloreds have had gasoline bombs thrown at their homes; their cars have been set afire. Not one has dared to intervene publicly to try to stop the violence.
Analysts here say that the one person who could probably stop the confrontation very quickly, if it suited him, is Allan Boesak.
Dr. Boesak, a leading figure in the Colored section of the Dutch Reformed Church, the main Afrikaans church to which, ironically, most members of the ruling National Party belong. Boesak is also president of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches.
Immediately after his arrest on the eve of the planned march, police flew him out of Cape Town and to a jail in Pretoria, more than 1,000 miles away. He has been held since without being allowed to communicate with anybody. As a concession, his wife Dorothy is now going to be allowed to visit.
But there are no indications yet what charges might be brought against him, or whether he will be charged at all. The government can hold him indefinitely.