Pro-ANC Homeland Resists Coup Try, Charges South African Involvement
JOHANNESBURG, South Africa (AP) _ A band of white and black rebel army troops mounted a failed coup attempt today in the black homeland of Transkei and 17 people died in the fighting with loyalist forces, reports said.
Military ruler Maj. Gen. Bantu Holomisa told a rally late Thursday in Transkei’s capital, Umtata, that the coup attempt had been put down, the independent South African Press Association reported. Holomisa said the leader of the uprising, former Holomisa aide Craig Duli, was dead, the agency said.
There was no independent confirmation of the report. Telephone lines to Transkei were cut later in the afternoon and there was no answer at the Transkei Embassy in Pretoria.
Holomisa said the coup attempt was headed by Duli, a former member of the military council, and involved about six whites and a handful of black troops. Duli is black and had been Holomisa’s chief of military intelligence.
Holomisa, whose government has ties with the anti-apartheid African National Congress, said earlier that he suspected the South African government might have been involved in the coup attempt.
South African Foreign Minister Pik Botha denied any South African effort to topple the government in the homeland of 2.75 million people, which covers three areas scattered in southeastern South Africa.
Homomisa said in addition to Duli, 11 co-conspirators died in battles with government soldiers who surrounded the building in Umtata where the rebels had taken refuge. The press agency said five government soldiers were also killed.
Earlier, South African diplomats in Umtata said fighting broke out about dawn when the rebels tried to seize key government buildings in the city. Umtata is about 370 miles south of Johannesburg.
The Press Association said it appeared fighting began at an army base on the outskirts of Umtata and the rebels later attempted to seize government buildings in the city.
″Early this morning, there were shots that were heard in parts of Umtata,″ said South African diplomat Gert Terblanche, reached by telephone in Umtata. Diplomats said roadblocks were put up across the city.
Local journalists said there was scattered gunfire and a number of government soldiers were taken to hospitals.
South African press reports said the airport at Umtata came under heavy mortar fire. Terrified civilians tried to leave parts of Umtata to escape fighting, according to reports from Transkei.
Holomisa and the army seized power in Transkei in 1987 and set up a government that has ties with the ANC, the main black opposition group in South Africa.
Duli helped Holomisa seized power, but the two had a falling out later and Duli had been imprisoned until recently on charges of possessing weapons. The Transkei military had a few white officers when it was set up.
It is one of four nominally independent black homelands set up by the South Afican government in the 1970s and 1980s as part of a plan to create separate states for blacks under the apartheid system of racial separation.
No country other than South Africa recognizes the independent homelands, most of which have been pressing for reintegration into South Africa.