Two days of rioting in Cape Town's Colored (mixed race) community, triggered by the anniversary of the bloody Soweto clashes four years ago, have left as many as 42 dead and more than 200 wounded, according to a Cape Town newspaper.
South African police, however, continued to refuse to provide official figures. The area was reported to be relatively quiet today.
Commissioner of Police Michael Geldenhuys tonight termed "definitely wrong and exaggerated" a total of 36 dead reported by the Cape Town newspaper, the Cape Argus. The paper said its figures came from a survey of area hospitals.
Geldenhuys said he still did not have enough information to say how many people were killed as a result of police action. Earlier, he had warned that police have orders to shoot to kill looters and other "violent, hooligan elements."
A second paper, the Cape Times, said it is reporting in its Thursday editions that 42 people were killed in the unrest, five of them today.
The newspaper noted that while most of the deaths were from bullets, some resulted from knife wounds, indicating street violence or gang disputes rather than police action.
Colored community leaders, meanwhile, have called for urgent talks with Prime Minister Pieter W. Botha.
The clashes over the last two days have brought to a head the simmering tensions between the nation's Coloreds and the authorities that began in April when Colored high school students began boycotting classes to protest the discriminatory system of education by race.
Colored leaders, in calling for the talks, said that although the violence is deplorable and a certain amount of thuggery present, the rioting also indicates the serious dicontent in the country's Colored community of 2.5 million. Coloreds believe, they say, that the government has not responded to their long-standing grievances.
Police officials have said that most of the deaths caused by police action in the unrest, which they say is entirely criminally motivated and unrelated to the 2-month-old school boycott have occurred while the victims were looting. t
Relative quiet reigned in the Colored ghettoes around Cape Town today, where last night's arson, looting and stone throwing brought gangs of youths into clashes with police.
Some residents, however, say the atmosphere is still tense. Police have refused to confirm that two planeloads of reinforcements were flown into Cape Town today.
In an apparent effort to forestall a repetition of yesterday's events, Geldenhuys warned early today that police would shoot to kill when people were found looting or committing arson.
"In these cases, the police will not use birdshot, rubber or plastic bullets, but will use live ammunition," he said.
Geldenhuys later retracted the statement, but not before it had been transmitted by the South African Press Agency.
In other areas of the country today, police reported that one person was shot to death and several wounded when the police station in the rural town of Paarl outside Cape Town was attacked with gasoline bombs and bricks. Police fired on the attackers from inside the station.
In the Indian community of Lenasia near Johannesburg, police arrested 360 children at a high school when they refused to give police their names and addresses as they stood outside the school. The students were boycotting classes.
In Cape Town, residents of riot-hit areas described certain roads as "battlefields." Overturned and burned-out vehicles, stones and broken glass littered the pavement. Three schools in the Colored neighborhood of Elsies River were set on fire last night, according to the Colored newspaper the Cape Herald.
Supermarkets, liquor stores and shops were also set alight, causing millions of dollars in damage, according to police officials. Two fire stations in the area reported they were called to 45 fires last night, but in many cases were prevented from reaching their destinations by stone-throwing, chanting crowds.
When authorities attempted to extinguish some of the fires, they were pelted with bottles, rocks and bricks, according to the South African press agency. Police have refused to disclose how many policemen have been injured or to confirm a report that a white policeman was stabbed last night in a police station in a black township. The report was made by the South African Press Agency.
In another incident reported by the agency, an ambulance carrying two women was hit with rocks on its way to a hospital. Police guards have now been posted outside hospitals in the area.
Minister of Police Louis Le Grange reiterated the official position on the rioting today, saying "We are no longer dealing with school, meat or bus boycotters. We are concerned now with criminal violence . . . and we will act relentlessly against it."
"This is no longer community action," Le Grange said, "but a case of completely irresponsible elements. They put their own people's shops to the torch and loot them. They don't care what damage is done to their own people.
"What is more, they are murderers of policemen," he added, referring to the confirmed death Sunday night of a white officer during a baton charge. The policeman was stabbed.
"They deserve what they will get," Le Grange said.
Journalists have been unable to confirm police allegations since a ban on reporters in the troubled areas is still in force. Geldenhuys is meeting with foreign journalists Thursday to discuss the ban.
The Rev. Alan Hendrickse, leader of the all-Colored Labor Party, today said that the unrest was partly due to the Coloreds' lack of any political platform.
"Now is the time when Prime Minister Botha should indicate his willingness to talk to recognized leaders who are in a position to talk on behalf of the Colored people," Hendrickse said.
"All avenues of negotiation have been closed, so at the moment we find ourselves voiceless, voteless and leaderless in terms of recognition," Hendrickse said.
The government recently dissolved the Coloreds' representative council, in which the Labor Party had a majority, because it refused to cooperate with initiatives and budgets worked out solely by the government.
Colored Minister Allan Boesack reiterated Hendrickse's arguments, saying that the hooligan element was a result of poverty and high unemployment. There is a belief in the community at present that the government will only respond to violence," he said.