An official advisory committee recommended today that South Africa abolish laws restricting the movement of blacks into urban areas, saying these restrictions were "in conflict with basic human rights."
If adopted by the white-minority government, the move would mean that blacks no longer would be required to carry passbooks, one of the most hated symbols here of the apartheid system of racial segregation. Each year, 200,000 to 300,000 blacks are arrested for offenses under the laws the panel said should be abolished.
In the continuing political violence, six blacks were killed when police opened fire with shotguns on a crowd in a black township outside Cape Town. In Soweto, the country's largest black urban area, a white schoolteacher and 10 black students were wounded by police shotgun fire and several hundred students were arrested.
The proposed abolition of the so-called pass laws and influx control act, following President Pieter W. Botha's statement yesterday that he would move to restore citizenship to blacks in the nominally independent "homelands," has caused cautious optimism among some critics of apartheid.
But analysts noted that Botha's government could back away if it perceived a significant backlash from conservative whites.
"This could be a nail in the coffin of apartheid," said John Kane-Berman, director of the South African Institute of Race Relations. "But I will believe the pass laws are being abolished when an act of Parliament with P.W. Botha's signature on it hits my desk. There have been too many false dawns before."
Sheena Duncan, president of the Black Sash civil rights group that counsels blacks facing legal action under the pass laws, was more upbeat, saying, "We've crossed some sort of watershed."
U.S. Ambassador Herman W. Nickel, appearing on state-run national television, described the pass laws and influx control as "probably in the daily lives of S.A. blacks the single most dehumanizing aspect of the system.
"If that can be brought to an end, and of course thus far we are only dealing with a recommendation, I think it would be regarded as a positive development," Nickel said.
[In Washington, the State Department said the committee's recommendation was encouraging, but spokesman Bernard Kalb criticized the government for expelling Newsweek correspondent Ray Wilkinson Wednesday, according to United Press International.]
Restrictions on blacks' movements are only one aspect of apartheid, but critics have singled them out as one of the most pernicious. The laws have been responsible for separating hundreds of thousands of black workers from their families.
The 1960 demonstrations in which 69 blacks died at Sharpeville protested the pass laws, which affect blacks who live in cities or wish to do so.
Abolition of the laws was recommended in a 231-page report by a committee of the 60-member President's Council, a statutory body that makes formal recommendations to Parliament. The council took up the report today in Cape Town, and its chairman, Piet Koornhof, told reporters he expected quick approval.
The report called for "orderly urbanization" and would not lift the legal ban on squatters, but it proposed vast new housing tracts for blacks seeking access to South African cities and said the government would have to accept "ordered informal settlement."
The report also called for uniform identity documents for all South Africans and better urban planning so that blacks would not have to travel three hours or more to get to and from work from their townships. But it did not recommend any changes in the law that prohibits blacks from living in designated white neighorhoods closer to town.
Koornhof, noting the report had been "fully discussed" with Botha, said he expected that some of its proposals would be put into effect during next year's parliamentary session. An official spokesman said the government would have no comment until the council approved the report.
Indications of possible changes in government policy did not quell the political unrest.
Three black youths were shot dead when a crowd of about 100 set up a burning barricade outside the Crossroads black squatters' camp and, according to police, threw rocks at cars and police vehicles.
A black man was shot dead overnight during an attack on a policeman's home in Langa township outside Cape Town, police reported, and a black woman died when police opened fire with shotguns and pistols on a group allegedly attacking a private home in a township near the town of Howick in Natal Province.
A member of the Azanian People's Organization whose name reportedly was on a black "hit list" was killed by blacks wielding sticks near the town of Hammarsdale in Natal. Organization officials blamed an unnamed "conservative black organization," an apparent reference to Zulu Chief Gatsha Buthelezi's Inkatha movement.
Police in Soweto renewed their crackdown on schoolchildren allegedly violating a ban on school protests. A white high school teacher and 10 black students were injured by shotgun pellets when the police opened fire on what a police spokesman called "an unruly mob."
The spokesman said A.E. Bester, 50, who teaches Afrikaans, seven boys and three girls were hit by the pellets. The students were treated at Baragwanath Hospital in Soweto and released; Bester, a bullet wound to her chest, was in fair condition at the whites-only South Rand hospital.
[In a relatively rare assault on whites, a 54-year-old white man was seriously injured when black youths stoned his car near Cape Town, police told Reuter tonight.]