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More Rail Coaches Torched in South African Strike

April 15, 1987

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa (AP) _ Eight railway coaches were set afire and two were stoned in Soweto in the latest attacks on trains of the strike-hit government transport company, officials said today.

The government’s Bureau for Information said a white man, whom it did not identify, was injured in one of the rock-throwing incidents Tuesday. It said damage to the burned and stoned coaches was ″considerable.″

Armed police guarded passenger coaches and railway stations today. A reporter for The Star, a Johannesburg daily, said there was confusion at the stations as some commuters were hesitant about boarding the trains.

The Star newspaper reported that signalling equipment was damaged in Tuesday’s attacks, resulting in temporary suspension of services on one line into the black township about 12 miles from Johannesburg.

The South African Transport Services, which operates the trains, has blamed striking black rail workers for the arson attacks that began Monday, disrupting travel for tens of thousands of residents of the sprawling black township outside Johannesburg.

The South African Railways and Harbor Workers Union, which represents about 16,000 workers on strike since March 13, said it was consulting laywers ″on how to react to statements linking us to clearly illegal acts.″

The general manager of the transport service, Bert Grove, said the strike ″has developed into civil unrest.″

″Examples are intimidation of black staff ... stone throwing and the burning of railway coaches,″ Grove said. ″Stronger action will have to be taken to curb and prevent the activities.″

On Monday, fires damaged 26 coaches on 10 trains as commuters returned from Johannesburg to Soweto, home to more than 2 million blacks.

In other developments:

-Police banned a meeting scheduled to be held tonight at Cape Town’s city hall by the United Democratic Front, the country’s largest anti-apartheid coalition.

The regional police commissioner, Ronnie Van Der Westhuizen, issued the ban Tuesday under provisions of the 1953 Public Safety Act but did not specify reasons for his action.

Among those scheduled to speak at the rally were 83-year-old white activist Helen Joseph and the Rev. Allan Boesak, a mixed-race minister who helped found the front and is president of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches.

-Boesak addressed hundreds of white students Tuesday night at the University of Stellenbosch, the most prestigious college of the Dutch- descended Afrikaners who control the government and sustain apartheid.

By law and custom, apartheid establishes a racially segregated society in which the 24 million blacks have no vote in national affairs. The 5 million whites control the economy and maintain separate districts, schools and health services.

″The fact that you are here tonight gives me hope, because it says we can join hands and fight together to build a new future in which peace and justice will prevail,″ Boesak said.

During the speech, which marked the formation of a coalition of progressive student groups called the United Stellenbosch Front, Boesak encountered persistent heckling by some members of the audience.

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