In the latest of a series of recent policy changes, the South African government announced yesterday that it had abandoned plans to uproot the black squatter settlement of Crossroads, near Cape Town, where 18 people were killed and 234 injured last week in violent rioting sparked off by the threat of forced removals.

The government minister in charge of black affairs, Gerrit N. Viljoen, warned, however, that about a third of the shantytown's 50,000 residents would still have to move because Crossroads was overcrowded.

But he pledged to negotiate with the community's leaders about their resettlement in a new township called Khayelitsha, and repeated assurances given after last week's violence that no one would be removed by force.

In Durban, Reuter reported, 5,000 people held a mass rally to protest the recent crackdown on the opposition that has resulted in 16 persons facing treason charges.

[Nobel Peace Prize winner Bishop Desmond Tutu told the crowd: "I would eat my hat if it can be shown that the 16 are guilty of any action which would be thought treasonable in the normal world outside South Africa."]

The government's about-face on Crossroads, which has been under threat of forced removal for 10 years, followed the dropping last week of plans to uproot three other black townships bordering Cape Town and relocate the 250,000 residents in Khayelitsha, which is some miles further from the "white" city.

Civil rights workers and other critics of the government welcomed the concessions, which Helen Suzman, a veteran opposition legislator, described today as "a very substantial change," but Crossroads residents who spoke out expressed skepticism, charging that the government had broken pledges made to them in the past.

"People are suspicious," Samuel Langa, a member of a residents' committee, told reporters in the shantytown.

Civil rights workers particularly welcomed the statement by Viljoen yesterday that he would try to legalize the position of the thousands of people in Crossroads and neighboring squatter settlements who entered the area in violation of the influx control regulations.