Police, Soldiers Keep Apart Racial Rallies
SCHWEIZER-RENEKE, South Africa (AP) _ Police confiscated armloads of rifles and shotguns from white extremists who gathered today for a rally honoring a neo-Nazi group in this rural town.
In the nearby black township of Ipelegeng, 2,000 African National Congress supporters held their own rally honoring the black group’s military chief.
The ceremonies - which took place peacefully - were a political and racial standoff in Schweizer-Reneke, 180 miles west of Johannesburg.
City officials recently decided to give the ″Freedom of the Town″ - a symbolic honor - to the Afrikaner Resistance Movement, a belligerent pro- apartheid group that has vowed to fight black rule.
Ipelegeng officials protested the decision, saying township residents were not consulted. They announced a separate rally to give the ″Freedom of the Township″ to Joe Modise, commander of the ANC’s military wing.
Both sides warned of conflict if they were threatened during their ceremonies, and the government quickly declared the region an unrest area, giving police wide powers to disperse crowds and detain people.
Some 1,500 police and soldiers deployed in Schweizer-Reneke, forming a security cordon today between the town of 2,600 and its township, where a few thousand blacks live.
Armored police and military vehicles sat at the town’s entrance, where soldiers, police and sniffing dogs searched every car and truck seeking to pass.
Whites going to the group’s rally were allowed to carry registered handguns in holsters, but rifles and shotguns were confiscated. Policemen carried armloads of weapons to a trailer near the road block for safekeeping until the owners claimed them after the rally.
About 2,500 supporters of the neo-Nazi group gathered, virtually all dressed in khaki uniforms. Many carried the group’s flags, which are red with a round, swastika-like insignia in the middle.
The group’s leader, Eugene TerreBlanche, led several dozen horsemen in a procession to City Hall. Commandos marched behind and several single-engine airplanes flew over in what was billed as the first public display of the group’s ″air force.″
In Ipelegeng, the rally had a more festive atmosphere. Graffiti praising the ANC and condemning police provided the only decoration. The only security presence was a few police vehicles parked outside the township.
Under apartheid, blacks were prohibited from living in white towns, so places like Schweizer-Reneke have townships nearby for blacks who work in the area. Despite the scrapping of apartheid laws, rural areas still generally adhere to the lingering segregation.