Letter: The restraint shown by an angry nation

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The Independent Online
Sir: John Carlin's moving reports (13, 14 and 15 April) on the events in South Africa following the tragic death of Chris Hani have been reinforced by international observers. They report that on 14 April more than 100 church services-cum-rallies took place throughout the country, attended by hundreds of thousands of people.

'Never before has our country been thrown into such a serious crisis as the murder of Chris Hani has done,' said Dr Beyers Naude, chairman of the Ecumenical Monitoring service in South Africa (Empsa), adding, 'one can only be deeply grateful for the restraint which was exercised despite the deep anger at this senseless killing and the delay in establishing a true democracy in South Africa.'

The six international church monitors around the country, co- ordinated by Empsa, attended rallies in Durban, Northern Natal, the Border area and Boksburg. They reported that most events went off relatively peacefully, considering the huge number of people involved, the speed at which the events were arranged, the level of tension and the depth of feeling in the communities. A retired senior British police officer with Empsa confirmed that good discipline and policing with not too high a profile kept violence and looting to a minimum in Boksburg. The international observers from the United Nations, the European Community, the Organisation of African Unity and the Commonwealth remarked on the discipline of the crowds and responsible policing in Boksburg, East London and Bloemfontein.

This contrasts strongly with the police shootings in Soweto. Despite high levels of emotion and the vast number of people wanting to attend, the service in the Jabulani stadium was peaceful. The shootings happened when the crowds moved to the Protea police station to present a memorandum.

'This was done and people began to move away when two police vehicles drove at speed into the crowd. That sparked the anger. People started pelting the police vehicles with stones and police opened fire, apparently without warning,' said an Empsa monitor. Four people were killed, including Sam Ntambune, the ANC leader in Soweto who was playing a key part in the peace efforts. The announcement by the Minister of Justice that certain areas of the country are to be declared unrest areas can only inflame the tensions.

Chris Hani's funeral should be marked by the South African government's agreeing to set the date for an election at the earliest possible time.

Yours sincerely,

ALISON HARVEY

Christian Fellowship Trust

ETHEL de KEYSER

British Defence and Aid Fund

for Southern Africa

London, W1

16 April

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