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Police Arrest Activists Protesting International Rugby Tour

August 26, 1989

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa (AP) _ Police arrested 30 people in Cape Town on Saturday during two protests against a controversial rugby tour by a squad of international all-stars.

The demonstrations, held hours before the start of a match, were part of a nationwide anti-apartheid campaign launched Aug. 2 to protest segregation and the Sept. 6 parliamentary elections, which exclude the black majority.

In other developments, Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu sent letters to four Western leaders, including President Bush, describing the almost daily unrest this month in black and mixed-race townships outside Cape Town.

And the country’s two largest anti-apartheid labor federations met near Johannesburg to discuss strategies for opposing laws that limit worker rights.

Twenty eight demonstrators were arrested at a hotel in Cape Town after meeting briefly with Willie John McBride, manager of the international squad made up of Australian, French and British players.

Several demonstrators carried posters that read ″Mercenaries Go Home″ and ″Apartheid Tour Must Stop.″

Two activists also were arrested when about 30 protesters gathered outside the main Cape Town branch of First National Bank, sponsor of the rugby tour. Bank officials said they have received several bomb threats in recent days.

The activists were identified as Dawood Khan, a spokesman for the Western Cape Traders Association, and Willie Hofmeyer, a leader of the banned United Democratic Front, the country’s largest anti-apartheid coalition.

Police on Friday banned all rallies in protest of the tour. The international team’s visit has been denounced by activists as a breach of a sports boycott imposed to protest apartheid.

The International XV squad, whose tour was approved by the International Rugby Board, already has played two matches in South Africa. But Saturday’s contest was the first against the South African national squad, the Springboks.

Rugby is the most popular team sport among white South Africans, who believe their squad would be the best in the world if allowed to compete regularly on an international level.

Saturday’s match, which the Springboks won 20-19, marked the first international competition for the South African team since a New Zealand team made an unsanctioned ″rebel tour″ in 1986.

In most sports, the world governing bodies have barred South Africans from international competition because of apartheid. However, the degree of sanctions varies in each sport.

South Africa has not been allowed to compete in the Olympics since 1960, and generally its amateur teams have difficulty playing abroad or attracting visitors. In professional sports, South Africa often lures foreign competitors with huge sums of money in cricket, boxing, golf and tennis.

British cricket players have agreed to a tour in January even though they will face an automatic five-year suspension from international competition. South Africa also stages an annual golf tournament with a $1 million first prize - the largest of any tournament - and consistenly draws top players.

Tutu’s spokesman, John Allen, declined to release details of the letters. But he said Tutu mailed them to Bush, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, French President Francois Mitterand and West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl.

The clashes between activists and police have escalated steadily since the launch of the defiance campaign and police blamed two deaths Friday on rioters.

The two labor federations that met Saturday - the Congress of South African Trade Unions with 900,000 members, and the smaller National Council of Trade Unions - have said they make take protest action before the elections.

Gen. Hennie de Witt, the police commissioner, imposed tight restrictions on the meetings, allowing only union members to attend, prohibiting political banners, and restricting discussions to labor issues.

Dozens of police armed with shotguns and tear gas were present at the meeting attended by 800 delegates.

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