South African Police Put Curfew on Restive Black Towns
JOHANNESBURG, South Africa (AP) _ Police imposed a 9 p.m.-to-4 a.m. curfew Tuesday on some black townships wracked by chronic faction fighting.
The curfew, announced last week, was included in police measures designed to halt fighting that has killed about 800 people since Aug. 12 in townships around Johannesburg.
Black organizations asked supporters to defy the curfew, but several areas appeared calm after it started.
Reporters said streets were empty in parts of Soweto included in the curfew area. Police checked vehicles at a roadblock. Two armored police vehicles were seen patrolling.
″We are quite prepared for dealing with some resistance,″ police Brig. Gen. Leon Mellett said Tuesday. ″We certainly will meet some resistance.″
Much of the fighting has pitted Xhosas and other blacks linked to the African National Congress against Zulu supporters of the conservative Inkatha movement.
The ANC, the largest black opposition group, said the curfew would leave township residents unprotected while permitting Inkatha vigilantes and other ″agents of darkness″ to launch attacks.
It has accused police of aiding Inkatha in the fighting, and also alleged that right-wing extremists have taken part in attacks. The government says individual police may have acted improperly, but the force as a whole has been impartial.
″These non-aggressive measures are aimed at protecting defenseless, law- abiding residents and to ensure they sleep in peace,″ police Maj. Gen. Herman Stadler said in a statement. He said the curfew would check ″the movement of criminal elements and radical thugs.″
Township fighting has eased following periods in which dozens of blacks died daily. The fighting spread from eastern Natal Province, where five years of political and tribal warfare have killed 5,000 blacks.
Police said Monday the curfew would be enforced in Tokoza, Vosloorus, Katlehong and several areas of Soweto.
Violators could get up to six months in jail or a $400 fine.
Township residents who work at night must provide a letter of proof to be exempt, police said. Soweto police also would accept ticket stubs to concerts, movies and soccer matches for exemption.
Other measures included weapons searches, roadblocks, police and military reinforcements, and isolating flash points such as worker hostels and squatter camps.
Police in Durban, the largest Natal city, said Tuesday they had seized 785 illegal firearms. They also said they increased the rewards for people aiding the discovery of some weapons, such as missiles, rocket launchers and machine guns.