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Thousands of Blacks Miss Final Exams, Violence in Soweto

November 26, 1986

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa (AP) _ The government said Wednesday that intimidation and violence prevented more than three-quarters of Soweto’s high school seniors from taking their final exams this week.

″This situation will have far-reaching negative consequences for the pupils, their parents and the communities concerned,″ said Braam Fourie, director of the Department of Education and Training.

He said between 10 percent and 23 percent of 6,000 eligible black students from Soweto and townships around the capital wrote the exams, which ended Tuesday. In the troubled Eastern Cape region, between 24 and 47 percent of 2,000 candidates attended.

Fourie said attendance in most other black areas was good.

Boycotts of classes and exams to protest apartheid have become a strong weapon of militant black youths. Some of them use violence to force their peers to stay away.

Also Wednesday, the government reported clashes between police and Soweto residents.

Residents who spoke on condition of anonymity said the confrontation was sparked by police demolishing a cluster of squatter shacks. The Bureau for Information said the shacks were torn down by Sowetans living in permanent homes nearby.

Bureau spokesman Deon van Loggerenberg said police who arrived at the scene fired tear gas after residents pelted them with stones and gasoline bombs.

One bomb shattered the windshield of a car driven by a CBS News television crew leaving Mafulo squatter area.

Cameraman Jonathan Partridge and soundman Meshack Mokoena were not hurt.

Most people in Mafulo have come from Soweto’s Meadowlands neighborhood, fleeing faction fights between permanent residents and those who live in and around a migrant workers’ hostel. The Meadowlands refugees have built makeshift shelters on what used to be a golf course, said one Soweto resident.

Another resident said police officers told them they were destroying the huts on orders from Soweto town councilors, who have fled the township because of threats and attacks.

Residents said it was the second time police knocked down the shacks and people had been ordered not to rebuild on the land, which is council property.

Soweto Mayor Ephraim Tshabalala said he would resign Thursday to protest the council’s approval of the demolition, the independent South African Press Association reported.

It quoted Tshabalala, who frequently feuds with the council, as saying the shacks were bulldozed under the supervision of council police.