ANC unleashes all-out action

(Photograph omitted)

THE African National Congress announced yesterday that this week's campaign of 'mass action' would be renewed nationwide after the funeral on Monday of the assassinated leader, Chris Hani, and would continue, through May if necessary, until a date had been set for democratic elections.

The announcement came as ANC regional leaders all over South Africa prepared to hold protest marches this weekend, notably in Johannesburg and Pretoria today, where fears are high of a repeat of the rioting in Cape Town on Wednesday.

Hani's coffin will be brought to Soweto's 80,000-seater Soccer City stadium tomorrow in preparation for an all-night vigil to be followed by the burial on Monday in a cemetery near Dawn Park, the suburb east of Johannesburg where he had lived for the last two years. Tens of thousands of mourners are expected from all over the country, prompting ANC officials yesterday to try and arrange for closed-circuit television monitors to be installed outside the stadium.

Today's march in central Johannesburg, to the notorious John Vorster Square police station, is expected to be particularly large, as it will attract not only ANC supporters from the many outlying townships but also early arrivals for the funeral from further afield. In response to orders from President FW de Klerk, the police said yesterday that Greater Johannesburg had been declared an 'unrest area': state of emergency regulations will allow the police to arrest without charge and to close off areas of the city.

The ANC, for its part, is deploying 1,500 marshals in Johannesburg who, it hopes, will make police intervention unnecessary. Having accepted part of the blame for Wednesday's riots, claiming lack of preparedness, the ANC said yesterday it was now confident it would be able to control the crowds.

It is a task the ANC will have to become used to in the coming weeks. An ANC statement said that 'rolling mass action' - more marches, demonstrations and work protests - would be the order of the day until agreement had been reached at multi-party talks for an election date.

A second demand was the installation as quickly as possible of a system of transitional executive councils, as already agreed in principle between the ANC and the government. The purpose of these councils is to exercise multi-party responsibility for all areas of government which will impact on the holding of free and fair elections. The ANC yesterday highlighted the requirement that all armed forces in the country fall under joint control.

One development yesterday suggested that the ANC leaders were indeed reining in their more radical supporters. A plan announced at the start of the week by the ANC Youth League to march yesterday from Soweto to Johannesburg was called off. At a rally on Wednesday, a Youth League official told the crowd that yesterday barricades would be put up on the streets, bringing the city to a standstill.

Nelson Mandela rebuked the young official for his inciting behaviour. This did not go down well with the crowd, but on Thursday, in meetings behind the scenes, the ANC's wiser, older heads prevailed.