Blacks living in this dusty, sprawling township outside Johannesburg yesterday signaled their continued opposition to a local government scheme drawn up for them by the white minority government by staying away from polling places during the second election in two months.
Only 6 percent or 6.631 of 60,000 eligible voters, participated in the election for a Soweto community council.
The election became necessary after an election Feb. 18 filled only 11 of the 30 seats on the council. Voter turnout at that time was a mere 5.6 percent.
Although the government has successfully set up community councils in several black communities around the countries, Soweto is the real test of acceptance for the plan - written and approved by the all-white parliament last year. This all-black community of an estimated 1.2 million people is a bellweather for this nation's relations between blacks and whites.
Rejection of the plan by the majority of Soweto voters can only mean at the least, a defiant noncooperation with the white government, and at the worst, a portent of future violence in a community plagued by frustrated political aspirations and high unemployment.
Extra police were on patrol and stationed at the polls to prevent intimidation of voters and candidates by those who oppose the elections, police said. After the last community council election, the house of one of the successful candidates was firebombed.
Airplanes dropped government-printed leaflets over the black residential area yesterday urging the people to "vote now!"
The February elections, which were described all around as a fiasco, were interpreted as a silent protest by Soweto residents to the detention of their popular, though unelected, representative body, the Committee of Ten. Members of the committee, which formed itself following student rioting to negotiate with the white government, were detained Oct. 19 during a clampdown on dissidents.
After the dismal showing in the first elections, the Minister of Plural Relations (Black Affairs) Connie Mulder took a series of steps to reduce opposition to the community council scheme. Yesterday's election results will be regarded as an indication of his success.