US embassy cable - 90PRETORIA2455

THE BEAT GOES ON: MASS PROTEST ACTIONS PROLIFERATE

Identifier: 90PRETORIA2455
Wikileaks: View 90PRETORIA2455 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Pretoria
Created: 1990-02-09 16:01:00
Classification: CONFIDENTIAL
Tags: PGOV PHUM SF
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
P 091601Z FEB 90
FM AMEMBASSY PRETORIA
TO SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 8874
INFO AMCONSUL CAPE TOWN
AMCONSUL DURBAN
AMCONSUL JOHANNESBURG
AMEMBASSY LUSAKA
AMEMBASSY HARARE
AMEMBASSY LONDON
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 PRETORIA 02455 
 
CAPE TOWN ALSO FOR EMBASSY 
 
E.O. 12356: DECL:OADR 
TAGS: PGOV, PHUM, SF 
SUBJECT: THE BEAT GOES ON: MASS PROTEST ACTIONS PROLIFERATE 
 
REF: (A) PRETORIA 1985, (B) JOHANNESBURG 156, 
     (C) PRETORIA 1310, (D) PRETORIA 1311 
 
1.  (C) - ENTIRE TEXT 
 
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SUMMARY 
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2.  THE LEVEL OF PROTEST ACTION CONTINUES TO RISE IN THE 
WAKE OF PRESIDENT DE KLERK'S FEBRUARY 2 PARLIAMENTARY 
SPEECH.  A GROWING NUMBER OF BLACK COMMUNITIES HAVE 
ORGANIZED RALLIES AROUND LOCAL ISSUES, WHILE THE REBEL 
CRICKET TOUR AND THE UNBANNING OF ORGANIZATIONS HAVE 
PROVIDE A NEW FOCUS OF ACTIVITY.  MOST DEMONSTRATIONS 
CARRY A PALPABLE RISK OF CONFRONTATION AND VIOLENCE 
BETWEEN POLICE AND PROTESTERS, OR BETWEEN PARTICIPATING 
ANTI-APARTHEID FACTIONS.  THIS TENSION PREVAILS AT THE 
VERY TIME PRETORIA IS UNDER PRESSURE TO RELEASE MANDELA 
(SURE TO ROCKET BLACK ENTHUSIASM) AND REMOVE THE STATE OF 
EMERGENCY IN FULL. 
 
END SUMMARY 
 
3.  IN THE PRETORIA-JOHANNESBURG AREA ALONE, AT LEAST 5 
RALLIES TOOK PLACE WITHIN THE PAST WEEK.  THIS DOES NOT 
COUNT THE PROTEST ACTIONS SURROUNDING THE REBEL BRITISH 
CRICKET TOUR WHICH IS ATTRACTING ALMOST DAILY PROTESTS. 
 
--------- 
ALEXANDRA 
--------- 
 
4.  IN PERHAPS THE LARGEST EVER DEMONSTRATION IN ALEXANDRA 
(NORTHERN JOHANNESBURG), AN ESTIMATED 50,000 RESIDENTS LED 
BY THE ALEXANDRA CIVIC ORGANIZATION MARCHED ON FEBRUARY 3 
FROM THE LOCAL STADIUM TO THE CITY COUNCIL OFFICES AND THE 
POLICE STATION TO PRESENT PETITIONS.  EVEN BEFORE WINNIE 
MANDELA APPEARED ON THE SCENE, THE DEMONSTRATION HAD 
BECOME VOCIFEROUSLY AN ANC UNBANNING CELEBRATION.  THE 
POLICE MAINTAINED A LOW PROFILE. 
 
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ATTERIDGEVILLE 
-------------- 
 
5.  THE ATTERIDGEVILLE-SAULSVILLE RESIDENTS ORGANIZATION 
(ASRO) SPONSORED AND DIRECTED A SIMILAR EXERCISE IN MASS 
MOBILIZATION THE NEXT DAY (FEBRUARY 4) OUTSIDE PRETORIA. 
SOME 60-80,000 RESIDENTS JOINED THE MARCH TO LOCAL 
GOVERNMENT OFFICES WHERE A PETITION WAS DELIVERED GIVING 
THE CITY COUNCILLORS ONE MONTH TO ADDRESS A MYRIAD OF 
TOWNSHIP GRIEVANCES (RENT INCREASES, EVICTIONS, 
MISAPPROPRIATION OF FUNDS, ETC.). 
 
6.  AGAIN, ANC SYMPATHIZERS DOMINATED THE GATHERING; ONLY 
ANC, SACP, UDF, COSATU, AND SWAPO BANNERS WERE IN 
EVIDENCE.  PARTICIPANTS WHO APPEARED WITH T-SHIRTS BEARING 
AZAPO (BLACK CONSCIOUSNESS) OR PAM/PAC (AFRICANIST) LOGOS 
WERE SUMMARILY TOLD TO REVERSE THE SHIRT OR GO HOME. 
 
7.  POLICE AT TIMES SEEMED TO BE TRYING TO PROVOKE A 
CONFLICT AS THEIR VEHICLES SPED RECKLESSLY THROUGH THE 
THRONGS OF PROTESTERS FOR NO APPARENT REASON.  THE PEOPLE, 
WHO HAD BEEN WARNED AGAINST SUCH PROVOCATIONS BY COMMUNITY 
LEADERS RETREATED TO NEARBY YARDS TO AVOID INJURY. 
 
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TEMBISA 
------- 
 
8.  VIOLENCE ERUPTED IN TEMBISA (OUTSIDE JOHANNESBURG) 
DURING A FEBRUARY 5 PROTEST CALLED BY LOCAL MASS 
DEMOCRATIC MOVEMENT LEADERS.  A PETITION DELIVERED TO 
LOCAL AUTHORITIES CALLED FOR AN END TO THE STATE OF 
EMERGENCY AND RESTRICTION ORDERS ON 20 TEMBISA ACTIVISTS, 
LOWER RENTAL RATES, AND THE RESIGNATION OF THREE SECONDARY 
SCHOOL PRINCIPALS.  APPARENTLY, YOUNG DEMONSTRATORS 
ATTACKED NON-PARTICIPANTS IN THE ANNOUNCED STAYAWAY, WHICH 
BROUGHT RETALIATORY POLICE ACTION.  SEVEN PEOPLE WERE 
SERIOUSLY INJURED BY POLICE TEARGAS CANISTERS AND 
BIRDSHOT. 
 
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GARANKUWA 
--------- 
 
9.  ABOUT 70,000 PEOPLE ON FEBRUARY 7 MARCHED TO LOCAL 
GOVERNMENT OFFICES IN GARANKUWA, SOME 30 MILES NORTHWEST 
OF PRETORIA INSIDE BOPHUTHATSWANA.  THE PETITION LODGED BY 
COMMUNITY LEADERS FOCUSED AGAIN ON LOCAL GRIEVANCES (E.G., 
HIGH RENT AND SERVICES BILLS), BUT ALSO CALLED FOR THE 
RESIGNATION OF BOPHUTHATSWANA PRESIDENT MANGOPE'S 
GOVERNMENT AND THE REINCORPORATION OF THE "INDEPENDENT" 
HOMELAND INTO SOUTH AFRICA. 
 
10.  AGAIN, CHARTERIST-ORIENTED GROUPS PROVIDED THE BULK 
OF MARCHERS, THOUGH A FEW STEVE BIKO (BLACK CONSCIOUSNESS) 
POSTERS COULD BE SEEN HELD HIGH.  THE BOPHUTHATSWANA 
POLICE, TOO, WERE PLAYING A FAMILIAR ROLE, TRYING 
(UNSUCCESSFULLY) TO SEAL OFF THE PROTEST ROUTE.  IN 
FRUSTRATION NEAR THE END OF A LONG DAY, SEVERAL GROUPS OF 
POLICE FIRED TEAR GAS AND BIRDSHOT INTO THE DISPERSING 
CROWD, HARMING AT LEAST A DOZEN PEOPLE.  AT ANOTHER POINT 
A POLICE VEHICLE SPED INTO A GROUP KILLING ONE PERSON, AND 
SERIOUSLY INJURING SEVERAL OTHERS.  DESPITE THESE POLICE 
ACTIONS, THE DEMONSTRATION REMAINED GENERALLY PEACEFUL. 
 
----------------------------------- 
SOWETO CELEBRATION OF ANC UNBANNING 
----------------------------------- 
 
11.  EMBASSY HAS BEEN INVITED TO ATTEND THE UDF-AFFILIATED 
SOUTH AFRICAN YOUTH CONGRESS (SAYCO) RALLY IN SOWETO ON 
SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 11 TO CELEBRATE THE ANC'S UNBANNING.  WE 
SUSPECT OTHER LOCATIONS WILL HAVE SIMILAR RALLIES IN THE 
DAYS AHEAD, BUILDING TO A CRESCENDO FOR MANDELA'S RELEASE. 
 
---------------------------- 
COMMENT:  STEADY AS SHE GOES 
---------------------------- 
 
12.  THE TOWNSHIP MOBILIZATION TACTICS ADOPTED BY THE 
CHARTERIST-LED OPPOSITION ARE DESIGNED TO MAINTAIN 
PRESSURE ON THE SAG IN THIS PERIOD OF NASCENT DIALOGUE. 
THESE ACTIONS HOLD SIGNIFICANT RISKS FOR VIOLENT 
CONFRONTATION EITHER WITH THE AUTHORITIES OR, CONCEIVABLY, 
WITHIN THE RANKS OF THE ANTI-APARTHEID MOVEMENT.  SUCH A 
VIOLENT OUTBREAK, DEPENDING ON ITS SCALE, COULD DELAY THE 
SAG'S TIMETABLE FOR TAKING ADDITIONAL STEPS TOWARD 
NEGOTIATION, LIKE THE RELEASE OF MANDELA AND THE LIFTING 
OF THE STATE OF EMERGENCY.  YET, THESE MAY BE THE VERY 
MEASURES REQUIRED TO GET "TALKS ABOUT TALKS" OFF THE 
GROUND.  WHILE THE OPPOSITION PONDERS ITS RESPONSE TO DE 
KLERK'S BREATH-TAKING PARLIAMENTARY SPEECH (SEPTEL), WE 
WONDER IF THE SAG ALSO FEELS THE SQUEEZE.  END COMMENT 
 
SWING 
 
 
 
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