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Violence Wracks Homeland On Rocky Road to Nominal Independence

June 4, 1986

KWAGGAFONTEIN, South Africa (AP) _ Police fired tear gas Wednesday to disperse blacks marching on the government headquarters of the KwaNdebele tribal homeland, wracked by political and factional violence as it heads toward nominal independence.

After a funeral for two people who had died in previous violence, police fired into a crowd of several hundred people at a village near the Siyabuswa government headquarters, police and witnesses reported.

At Kwaggafontein, a settlement 19 miles away, some 2,500 blacks turned out for the peaceful funeral of another person. All three were shot by police, priests and relatives said.

Church sources in the homeland, 60 miles north of Pretoria, said the three were among at least 30 people killed in the past three weeks, mainly in fighting between militant youths and black vigilante supporters of the white- led government’s independence plan.

A priest said half the dead were beaten or shot by the vigilantes, mostly storeowners, and their supporters known as ″Mbokhoto.″

A foreign missionary working in the homeland who requested anonymity said about a quarter of the recent dead were shot by police or troops. The remainder were ″Mbokhoto″ members burned or hacked to death by anti- independence youths.

Brig. Chris van Niekerk, police chief of the 1,000-square mile homeland, was not available to comment on the reported toll, aides said, and he did not return telephone calls.

″This black-on-black violence is stifling what should be our real purpose, the struggle for liberation,″ said Vusi Mathumba, 20, an unofficial leader of the anti-independence youths.

The trouble in KwaNdebele compares with violence at the Crossroads squatter camp outside Cape Town which left at least 33 people dead and some 30,000 homeless in May. Government opponents charge that security forces support the Crossroads vigilantes.

In KwaNdebele, youths and churchmen say homeland Chief Minister Simon Skosane, a former truck driver, and his interior minister, Piet Ntuli, are linked with the violence carried out by the ″Mbokhoto,″ a cultural movement founded by Skosane.

But the missionary priest said white police and soldiers in the homeland have arrested and disarmed ″Mbokhoto″ members and appeared to be trying to crack down on violence by Skosane supporters as well as by the anti- independence youths.

KwaNdebele’s clusters of mud, brick and tin houses set amid bush and scrubland are dotted with burned out shells of stores owned by ″Mbokhoto″ members and gutted by youths since mid-May.

KwaNdebele’s troubles are both a spinoff of local disputes and the national system of racial separation, apartheid. There is disagreement about whether the independence plans for homelands will benefit the blacks.

Skosane revived the dormant ″Mbokhoto″ last Jan. 1 when people in the adjacent, but tribally different, Moutse area began a strong opposition to incorporation into an independent KwaNdebele. The people of Moutse number 120,000, compared with 400,000 Ndebeles in the homeland.

The revived ″Mbokhoto″ then turned on Ndebele youths, clamping down on political gatherings after Skosane and the South African government set Dec. 11, 1986 as independence day, Mathumba said.

KwaNdebele has no natural resources. Its economy is based on South African government handouts and the earnings by blacks who commute up to 60 miles each way to jobs in white areas.

It is destined to become the fifth of South Africa’s 10 tribal homelands to accept an independence no other country recognizes.

Together, the ragged homelands comprise 13 percent of South Africa. Under the original design of apartheid they were supposed to be the only places that South Africa’s majority of 24 million blacks could vote or have permanent rights of residence.

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