Rival War Bands Battle as Army Deployed to Halt Battle
TOKOZA, South Africa (AP) _ War bands battled with axes, spears and knives and ritually mutilated the bodies of their enemies Saturday as the death toll from a week of tribal fighting rose to at least 222. Hundreds were injured.
Fighting flared in parts of Soweto and Tokoza townships when large groups of heavily armed Xhosas tried to attack hostels housing migrant Zulu workers.
Zulus fought back with guns and sharp-edged weapons and went on a rampage in Tokoza, driving off the attackers.
″We were just drinking and being happy,″ said a Zulu called Steven, who was armed with two spears and a cowhide shield. ″They came to kill us. They want to drive us out, but we will kill them.″
The government ordered troops into the townships to support police in trying to halt the fighting. Police and soldiers in armored vehicles fired tear gas and shotguns to break up clashes. Lines of police vehicles drove between rival groups to keep them apart.
The fighting appeared to have developed primarily into a tribal battle. Earlier clashes had pitted Xhosas of the African National Congress and Zulus of the more conservative Inkatha movement, but many township residents said people who did not belong to the two groups were fighting along tribal lines.
The bloody conflict erupted last Sunday in Tokoza, east of Johannesburg, and spread during the week to four more areas, including Soweto, southwest of Johannesburg.
The fighting is the worst in the townships in years, local press reports say.
Police officials said at least 222 people had been killed, but the toll probably was higher because some bodies had been removed before police could count them.
Zulus at Tokoza ritually castrated the bodies of dead Xhosas and cut off hands, waving the severed parts in victory dances. Zulus believe mutilation robs enemies of their strength and makes the victor stronger.
A mob of about 1,500 Zulus in Tokoza beat their axes and spears against shields, chanting war cries. Police in armored vehicles surrounded the fighters to keep them from attacking nearby Xhosa houses.
The country’s top police official, Gen. Johann Van Der Merwe, announced the deployment of soldiers and more police.
″This strong contingent will do everything possible to stop the senseless violence,″ he said in a statement. But officials would give no details on how many troops were being deployed.
″We will kill the Xhosas 3/8 They are rubbish - we will kill them all 3/8″ declared Richard Zulu, leader of a war band.
Xhosas were demanding that all Zulus leave the townships, claiming they had no right to live there and should return to their native Natal Province. They blamed Zulus for starting the fighting.
A terrified Xhosa youth armed with several iron bars said, ″We must protect ourselves or they will kill us.″
In Soweto, police with assault rifles and shotguns roared through streets in armored vehicles and trucks. Youths who erected barricades with rocks and burning car tires were dispersed with tear gas.
A Soweto city councillor was killed by a mob outside his house Saturday, police spokesman Lt. G. Mariemuthoo said. The man, identified as T.A. Nkina, had his throat slit when he confronted the crowd with a firearm, the police spokesman said. Black officials are seen as turncoats who support the white- led government.
Also Saturday, thousands of black protesters marched through the conservative northern Transvaal town of Welkom, and police reported one marcher injured by a crossbow shot. The march was to protest high rents and lack of civic services.
No other incidents were reported as the estimated 5,000 marchers walked, danced and sang past police roadblocks and vehicles set up to protect them from threatened violence by right-wing whites.
Also Saturday, about 20,000 people marched peacefully through the town of Vereeniging, near Johannesburg, to protest political violence. The African National Congress and Congress of South African Trade Unions organized that march.
The ANC accused the government’s security forces of plotting to use Inkatha to stir up tribal rivalry in the townships around Johannesburg. More than 5,000 people have died in fighting between Inkatha and ANC supporters in the eastern Natal province in the past five years.
Inkatha President Mangosuthu Buthelezi said ANC supporters insult and attack Inkatha members, causing conflict.
Many Zulus involved in the fighting in the townships said they would not accept the ANC and its leader, Nelson Mandela, as a future government.
Mandela has been negotiating with President F.W. de Klerk on clearing the way for a new constitution to give political power to South Africa’s black majority.