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Black Schools Reopen under Closure Threat

September 10, 1986

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa (AP) _ The government threatened to shut schools where student boycotts persist, but attendence was reported spotty today as black pupils returned to class for the final term of the year.

Residents said they saw no troops on school grounds in Soweto, Johannesburg’s sprawling township, for the first time since a nationwide state of emergency was imposed three months ago. Students had demanded withdrawal of security forces as a condition for ending boycotts.

Some youths were returning to classes in Soweto after a 10-day vacation, but it appeared many were staying away in defiance of the threat of closure, according to reporters who toured the township.

The government Bureau of Information declined comment on the absence of troops at Soweto schools, saying, ″We cannot comment on security force actions.″

Attendance appeared higher in rural areas and the troubled eastern Cape province, according to initial estimates.

In Cape Town, American civil rights activist Coretta Scott King met with anti-apartheid leader the Rev. Allan Boesak, a day after canceling her planned meeting with President P.W. Botha.

Boesak, among several government foes who had urged Mrs. King not to see Botha, said she made ″a very wise and courageous decision″ in canceling the meeting. Botha’s office said Tuesday she had fallen victim of those ″in a make-believe world of political fraud″ who wanted to keep her uninformed about reforms in South Africa.

Mrs. King, the widow of slain civil rights activist the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., left for Johannesburg without comment after her 30-minute meeting with Boesak. She planned to leave for home on Thursday.

Meanwhile, the Bureau for Information said two blacks were killed in unrest in the 24-hour reporting period that ended at dawn today, but that overall the level of violence continued to decrease.

Schools Director General Braam Fourie announced Tuesday night that 20 schools in the eastern Cape where attendance was virtually nil during the past term would be closed for the rest of the year.

Fourie said other schools in the Johannesburg region, including Soweto, may be closed if low attendance continues in the fourth and final term.

School boycotts have been a major factor in two years of unrest that has left more than 2,000 dead. The government says most of the recent killings have resulted from black attacks on other blacks, not from security force action.

Job Schoeman, spokesman for the Department of Education and Training, said the 20 closures in the eastern Cape meant about 15,000 students would be without instruction until the school year ends.

He said 10 to 15 more schools in the Johannesburg area might be shut if the walkouts resumed.

In Soweto, more students were on the streets than in classes, the South African Press Association said.

Schoeman said attendance figures would not be available until late in the day, but that early reports suggested the turnout was higher than in recent months in the eastern Cape and in rural areas.

Fourie’s department runs classes for 1.8 million black students in urban areas, while another 4.2 million black youths attend schools in the 10 tribal homelands run by school departments there.

Of the 1.8 million urban students, about 100,000 refused to re-register for classes for the third term in June to protest the nationwide emergency declared June 12, and another 150,000 or so who registered did not attend classes regularly, Schoeman said.

The information bureau, the official source of information on unrest, said a 16-year-old girl, Florence Malani, was stabbed to death in a black township at Grahamstown in the eastern Cape on Tuesday by a group of about 30 blacks who then attempted to set her body alight.

In KwaMashu, a Durban township, an unidentified black man was killed Tuesday night when three shots were fired at a group of blacks who gathered at a private house, the bureau said.

Kobus Neethling, the bureau’s research chief, told a news briefing in Cape Town Ton uesday that most of the violence was confined to the eastern Cape and Soweto. He said the number of attacks on security forces fell from 180 in the week of June 12 to 42 last week, most of them stone-throwing and gasoline bombings.

State of emergency regulations forbid reporting on or filming security force actions without permission among other restrictions, but some of the regulations have been declared invalid by the courts.