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Two Blacks Reported Killed in Soweto

December 21, 1986

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa (AP) _ Two blacks were shot to death in Soweto township, bringing the death toll to seven in a week of clashes between liberal and conservative blacks, a news report said Sunday.

City Press, a white-owned weekly newspaper aimed at black readers, did not comment directly on possible reasons for the violence Saturday, apparently because of a police ban on news about a planned Christmas campaign including a boycott by blacks against apartheid.

Newspapers and residents had said the fighting that earlier left five dead resulted from attacks by conservative blacks against liberal blacks who organized the campaign.

The 10-day protest, called Christmas Against the Emergency, urges blacks to turn off lights from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. and burn candles in windows as a symbol of opposition to the state of emergency and the government’s policy of apartheid.

By law and custom, apartheid establishes a racially segregated society in which the 24-million black majority has no vote in national affairs. The 5- million white minority controls the economy and maintains separate districts, schools and health services.

Censorship rules imposed under the state of emergency ban or restrict reporting about unrest, security force actions, treatment of detainees, most forms of peaceful protest and a broad range of statements the government considers subversive.

The government defended the curbs in newspaper advertisements Sunday, saying the censorship was not aimed at the mainstream press but at the media ″supporting the cause of the radicals.″ The ads said media criticism of the measures, imposed Dec. 11 by President P.W. Botha, proved press freedom had not disappeared, and that the measures had helped curb violence.

Police Commissioner Gen. Johan Coetzee subsequently ordered City Press, the Sowetan and the Weekly Mail newspapers not to report or comment on Christmas Against the Emergency and three other current anti-government campaigns.

City Press said the two victims killed Saturday were shot in Phiri, a Soweto neighborhood, during an attack by conservative Sotho tribesmen on the home of a campaign organizer. It said the intended target, Andrew Kwenaite, was hospitalized with gunshot wounds.

Residents have complained that youths have gone door to door to enforce the lights-off call, and have smashed windows of some people who refused.

Meanwhile, the Johannesburg Star said a man whose charred body was found in a field may have perished in police custody, and the body set afire in the field to disguise the circumstances of death.

The Star said the victim, reputed mobster James Henry Meiring, may have died of heart failure from electric shocks during police interrogation. It said its information came from an anonymous caller, and police were checking it.

Meiring’s body was found in a field with the remnants of five charred tires around him. The ″necklace″ method of killing, in which gasoline-soaked tires are set ablaze around the victim’s neck, has become common during the last two years of violence. It is usually used by black militants against blacks believed to be government collaborators.

Police indicated last week that Meiring was implicated in two ″necklace″ murders, both apparently criminal acts but disguised as political killings.

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