A 19-year-old student was shot to death by police and several children were mauled by police dogs today when a group of high school students confronted police in Soweto, Johannesburg's troubled black township.
The violence erupted this morning when police attempted to take down antigovernment signs along the fence at Meadowlands high school, where a group of about 200 youths were meeting to discuss a student boycott, according to acting Soweto Police Chief J. J. Gerber.
When a sergeant got caught in the fence, the students began hurling rocks. Police, unable to use tear gas because of gusting winds, let loose the dogs, then fired five shots, teachers said. The victim, Regina Nhlapo, was shot in the head. The death toll from 13 months of racial unrest is now believed to be more than 620.
Today's confrontation follows a week of mounting tension in South Africa over the issue of black education. School boycotts have spread to several black townships, with an estimated 20,000 youths in Pretoria's black suburbs of Atteridgeville and Saulsville pledging not to return until African education is brought up to the standard of white schools. African teachers and school boards have been told by the students to quit, or face trouble.
Officials have disclosed that 183 youths under 18 from the Pretoria townships have been arrested for not attending classes. One local reporter said yesterday that police were chasing pupils in the streets, arresting anyone in a school uniform.
In Soweto today, camouflaged rifle-toting riot police, unable to catch all those involved in the Meadowlands incident, waited at Soweto's only hospital for the students. They arrested all youths reporting for dog bite treatment.
There were also several isolated incidents of stoning in the sprawling township of more than 1.2 million residents, police said.The main targets cles, an government cars. The debris made Soweto streets an obstacle course.
Officials have also reported incidents today around Cape Town and Port Elizabeth.
In the African township of Langa, near Cape Town, police said a school building was burned down by arsonists. In the New Brighton surburb of Port Elizabeth, 23 buses were stoned by students. One driver was injured.
The quality of black education has been a major complaint among militant youths since the first outbreak of racial unrest in mid-June last year. Observers here feel the unrest will probably continue next week.
There is concern that a scheduled meeting of blacks in Soweto Sunday - to discuss a call by prominent blacks for an autonomous township under black control - will trigger unrest. It could be the largest political rally ever held in Soweto.
[Agency France-Presse reported late Friday that Johannesburg Magistrate A. H. De Wet had banned the Soweto rally scheduled for Sunday.]
There appears to be overwhelming support among blacks, including students, for the proposals, which are a radical departure from complete white control of the township. Even the traditionally pro-government Afrikaans press has called on the government of Prime Minister John Vorster to discuss the proposals.
Warning that the government "dare not neglect or ignore" the proposal, Johnannesburg's Die Transvaler editorialized: "Every crumb of black initiative and willingness to accept responsibility must be encouraged."
The initial indications from government circles, however, is that officials are not interested in discussing the plan. In this year's recently ended parliamentary session, the government introduced a new plan for governing the township in which it give Africans only minor, limited powers, with the major responsibilities left in the hands of white administrators.
The group that proposed the autonomous township, the Committee of Ten, is made up of prominent Soweto professionals and headed by Dr. Nthato Motlana. It has already said it intends to deal only with prime minister, and not local administrators.