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Judge Calls Emergency Decree Gibberish With AM-South Africa-Judiciary, Bjt

July 15, 1986

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa (AP) _ A provincial Supreme Court justice hearing the first legal challenge to the state of emergency described a key part of the June 12 decree on Tuesday as unintelligible, ″a jumble of words.″

A government spokeswoman meanwhile contended that the state of emergency was achieving its aim of restoring peace to the country. Under the emergency, about 3,500 people have been jailed without charge and most constitutional guarantees have been suspended.

But the government said killings of blacks by radical blacks persisted, with six new deaths by burning reported Tuesday.

The Supreme Court of Natal province, in the Indian Ocean port of Durban, heard final arguments in the challenge to the emergency decree brought by the Metal and Allied Workers Union. Lawyers representing the mainly black union argued that the decree’s ban on publication or dissemination of ″subversive statements″ was invalid because the definition of subversive was so vague.

The lawyers also argued that President P.W. Botha’s government did not inform Parliament of the imposition of the emergency as required by law.

The three-judge panel planned to rule Wednesday.

One of the three, Justice John Didcott, said of the rules on subversive statements: ″I cannot make head nor tail of the regulations.″

″Nobody can be sure any more when he is committing an offense and when he is not,″ Didcott said, adding that the regulations preclude ″just about any political description of or political report on South Africa.″

The decree imposed strict controls on journalists. Beside banning subversive statements, the measures bar publication of actions by security forces and the names of those detained.

The Bureau for Information, the main official source of news, reported that six more blacks were killed through use of ″the necklace″ - in which a gasoline-soaked tire is placed around the neck of the victim and set afire.

Black militants fighting apartheid, the system under which South Africa’s 5 million whites dominate 24 million blacks, have used the technique to kill other blacks deemed supportive of the government.

Moderate anti-apartheid activists say a significant number of burning victims are foes of the government killed by blacks collaborating with the government.

Government spokeswoman Ronelle Henning described such burnings as ″a desperate reaction by radicals against the restoration of order, and (an effort) to gain a hold over the peace-loving majority by intimidation.″

Government figures show 148 people have been killed since the emergency was proclaimed.

Ms. Henning told reporters that ″black-on-black violence has been the main factor in deaths since the beginning of the state of emergency.″

She said the state of emergency has met with ″considerable success,″ and added, ″Peace has been returning to the country.″

The Soweto council Tuesday announced a 7-day reprieve for about 20,000 families facing eviction for non-payment of rent. The deadline had been Tuesday for those taking part in the rent boycott to demand the council’s resignation.

Soweto is the sprawling, black township outside Johannesburg.

Also, amendments to the Group Areas Act, which segregates business and residential areas, were quietly enacted in regulations published in the official government gazette. The new rules allow black students to reside in white areas without permits and allow black executives to work in white areas.

This last practice has gone on for years without action being taken.

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