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June 17, 1976 - Image 5

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Text
Publication:
Michigan Daily, 1976-06-17

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Thursdoy, June 17; 1976

THE MICHIGAN [DAILY

Page Five

Blacks riot in South Africa

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa (A)-
Bloody rioting swept through a sprawl-
ing black suburb yesterday in an erup-
tion of violence over the enforced use of
Afrikaans in schools, a language despis-
ed as a symbol of white oppression.
Police opened fire on the mobs and at
least six persons were reported killed
and dozens injured.
"We fired into them. It's no. good fir-
ing over their heads," a senior police of-
ficer told reporters.
HUNDREDS OF police with guns,
dogs, tear gas and helicopters converged
to herd the rioters onto a small hill in
Soweto, a vast township eight miles out-
side Johannesburg. More than one mil-
lion blacks live in Soweto, segregated
from whites under South Africa's apar-
theid policy.'
Estimates of the number of rioters
ranged to 10,000, most of them young
students. At regular intervals army heli-
copters passed over the hill to dump
tear gas.
Officials said the police, some in
camouflage fatigues and many armed
with automatic rifles, ringed the hill
and tried to drive the rioters onto open
ground.
THE RIOTS began as a march by
Soweto pupils to the Phefeni secondary
school, located atop the hill, to support
pupils there who have been boycotting
classes for five weeks to protest the
mandatory use of Afrikaans.
The language, derived from Dutch, is
used by South Africa's Boers, who dom-
inate the four-million-strong white mi-
nority that rules over the country's 18
million blacks. The blacks would prefer

to be taught in English, which they re-
gard as the language of progress and
a link to the outside world.
The march quickly turned violent as
pupils began taunting and stoning police,
and police loosed a volley of tear gas.
A BLACK reporter on the scene said
a white policeman pulled out his revolv-
er and fired. Other police then began
shooting.
New groups of students began running
out of side streets, pelting the police
with rocks. The reporter said she saw
one student hit in the chest and then a
little boy fell.
"lie had a bloody froth on his lip
and he seemed so seriously hurt so I
took him to Phefeni clinic, but he was
dead when we arrived," said Sophie
Tema, the reporter. When she returned
she saw a black. policeman on the
ground covered by a sheet lying next to
an old mlan.
AS THE rioting spread through the
winter day, mobs hurled rocks, over-
tnrned cars and set fires. All whites
were evncnated from Soweto.
The dead included two white motorists
dragged from their cars and stoned to
death, a police spokesman said. He
could not confirm reports that two white
policemen were killed.
Hospital spokesmen said at least 19
of the injured had bullet wounds. Four
or five were policemen. The casualty
toll was incomplete because ambulances
racing to the scene were turned' back
by rock-hurling mobs.
RIOTERS also prevented fire fighters
from entering the area. One fire engine,

manned by blacks, was attacked by
rioters.
'It looked as though there might be
two or three cars ablaze at the scene,"
said a black fireman. "We could not be
sure whether there were any occupants
is any of the cars. It was too dangerous
t) stay there."
Observers said it was the worst race
confrontation since the Sharpeville riots
of March 1960, when police killed 72
blacks protesting laws requiring them
to carry passes.
"THE WHOLE situation is escalating
and it is impossible for me to tell ex-
actly what is going on," said an offic-
ial at Soweto police headquarters.
Two correspondents who tried to drive
to the besieged hill were turned back
by blacks who warned: "It would be
crazy to go up there. You would be
endangering your lives."
Angry black youths congregated
around the sports field opposite the
hill. Witnesses said two of them, shout-
ing "Kill the whites! Kill the whites!"
were dragged away by police.
DURING THE march, students shook
their fists and yelled, "Power!" and
sang black nationalist songs. They car-
ried banners saying "Away with Afri-
kaans," "We are not Boers" and "Viva
Azania" - the black nationalist name
for South Africa.
The Rev. Desmond Tutu, black dean
of Johannesburg, said: "I can only ap-
peal to the people in Soweto to restrain
themselves, however hollow that might
sound.

"But they have restrained themselves
for so long trying to get someone to
hear their side. We black leaders have
been warning the government about
something like this happening for a long
time."
ANGER OVER the use of Afrikaans in
schools has been smoldering for a long
time among South Africa's blacks.
Although three years ago the govern-
ment said blacks could study in either
English or Afrikaans, officials in South-
ern Transvaal have continued to insist
on both languages being used, This
means that in addition to his tribal
language, a black child must know both
English and Afrikaans to get an educa-
tion,
Critics say the policy was designed to
keep blacks backward. White South Af-
ricans can be taught in either English
or Afrikaans,
THE QUESTION, however, runs deep-
er than language. Some South Africans
see the opposition to Afrikaans as an ex-
pression of "black consciousness" or
nationalist militancy.
There has been mounting criticism in
recent months by government critics
at the failure of improving life for
blacks is "white" urban areas. Africans
living around these areas, like those in
Soweto, have no political rights in South
Africa but are regarded as citizens of
tribo-l reserves which will eventually be
granted political independence.
And unrest among them is never far
below the surface.

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