ANC man denounces township supporters

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A SMALL team of United Nations observers arrived in South Africa yesterday to discover, on the eve of a general strike called by the African National Congress and its allies, that a senior ANC leader, Chris Hani, had taken the unusual step of publicly denouncing the brutal behaviour of some of his organisation's township supporters.

Seven UN officials flew into Johannesburg yesterday, joining three who are already in the country, on a mission to monitor potential outbreaks of violence in a week which is expected to see not only a two-day general strike but also - amid nationwide street protests - a march through Pretoria on Wednesday headed by Nelson Mandela.

Even before the start of the protest, 13 black people were killed in political violence, police said yesterday. In the worst outbreak, eight men were found bludgeoned and hacked to death in the Orange Farm squatter camp in the Vaal Triangle, south of Johannesburg.

The objective of the 'mass action' campaign - which amounts to a political declaration of war - is to press the government to accept majority rule, and, more immediately, to act on ANC demands that it stop political violence.

In that light, it was all the more surprising that Mr Hani, who doubles as general secretary of the Communist Party and senior ANC executive member, should have chosen to give an interview for yesterday's Johannesburg Sunday Times in which he said that many members of township 'self-

defence units' linked to the ANC had no conception of democratic tolerance.

He said that an investigation he had headed into these units, initially set up in response to the perceived 'war' launched on the townships by Inkatha members and their security force allies, had revealed habits of intimidation, assault and murder. Among these was the practice of 'necklacing' political rivals - death by burning a tyre placed round their necks.

'We can no longer keep quiet about this,' Mr Hani said. 'We have to establish basic accountability . . . Whether we like it or not, these self-defence units are associated with us. If they are seen to be bully-boys, the ANC will lose membership.'

Mr Hani's words carry all the more weight because, as former chief of staff of the organisation's guerrilla wing, Umkhonto we-Sizwe, he is an idol among the pro-ANC township youth.

Mr Hani's comments were given added force yesterday when Mr Mandela, appearing on state-run television, said he had personally ordered top ANC officials to probe maverick ANC militants accused of political killings. 'We want these coming demonstrations to be peaceful, disciplined and non-violent,' he said, adding that transgressors would be suspended or expelled from the ANC.

At first sight baffling, Mr Hani's outburst disguised a thoughtful political gesture.

A minority of unruly youths, as he indicated, have been threatening to erode support for the ANC among the majority of black citizens, who, at this stage, may be expected to vote for the organisation come an election.

It was important, as an ANC official contacted yesterday said, to send out a message distancing the leadership from violence purportedly practised in the ANC's name, particularly because Mr Mr Mandela has been repeatedly promising a peaceful campaign this week.

Besides, as the official pointed out, the ANC may be expected to deflect the negative impressions that Mr Hani's admissions have conveyed by drawing attention to the failure of President F W de Klerk to own up to the violence generated by the secret branches of his security forces.

It is the view of ANC leaders that Mr de Klerk is far more a captive of the hardliners in the police and the army than they are - as the government often claims - to the township radicals.

In an interview last week with the Independent, Cyril Ramaphosa, the ANC secretary-general, said he believed the South African President had become a 'hostage' of the generals.

'It is either that De Klerk is so fearful of what these people can do, or he is totally unaware of the powder keg he is sitting on,' Mr Ramaphosa said.

'But I think it is more the former than the latter. I think De Klerk is very much aware of the security forces . . . and finds himself trapped by them.'

The tensions Mr Ramaphosa sees between moderates and hardliners in the state apparatus will give way to cracks, he believes, as a consequence of this week's 'mass action' pressure. At least, that is his hope.