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U.S. Talk Show Host Sponsors Lunches In Black Township

July 22, 1988

ALEXANDRA, South Africa (AP) _ An American group sponsored by television personality Oprah Winfrey on Friday treated elderly residents to a hot lunch that is to become a weekly feature in this impoverished black township.

Organizer Armstrong Williams said Ms. Winfrey has never been to South Africa, but became interested in Alexandra after interviewing Mark Mathabane, who grew up in the township.

Mathabane went to the United States on a college tennis scholarship and later wrote a book titled ″Kaffir Boy″ about the difficulties of black life in South Africa.

In South Africa, ″kaffir″ is a derogatory term for blacks.

Ms. Winfrey donated about $7,000 to provide lunches for the next 12 months, Williams said.

The township, with a population of about 120,000, is a collection of shacks and garbage-strewn streets wedged among some of Johannesburg’s most affluent white suburbs.

About 200 residents gathered outside a township house for the luncheon, where another U.S.-based group, the Coalition on Southern Africa, donated 43 boxes of books and clothing.

″We wanted to focus attention on the plight of Alexandra,″ said Robert Brown, a leader of the coalition and president of a public relations firm in High Point, N.C. ″This is one of the poorest and most ignored parts of the country.″

Williams said Thursday that Winnie Mandela, wife of imprisoned African National Congress leader Nelson Mandela, was to attend the luncheon, but she was not present.