Anglican Bishop Desmond Tutu today dismissed as "too little, too late" proposals by the white-ruled government to end South Africa's pass laws and restore citizenship to blacks.
His remarks were later echoed in a statement by the opposition United Democratic Front, a coalition of 700 community activist groups. It said the government still sought to preserve "white-minority power and privilege," and that "nothing short of the granting of full political power for the disenfranchised majority" would satisfy blacks.
Later this afternoon, the President's Council overwhelmingly approved a formal proposal to Parliament that the country's laws controlling black movement into urban areas be revised drastically and that the "passbooks" blacks must carry at all times to live and work in urban areas classified as "white" be abolished. The moves have been greeted warmly by white opponents of the country's system of racial segregation.
As the political maneuvering continued, police announced that they have arrested more than 1,300 persons, including 746 black high school students, under the country's sweeping emergency regulations during the past week, the largest number of detentions in any week since the emergency took effect July 21.
The arrests, coming after two days of proposals from government officials for major changes in laws limiting the citizenship and free movement of blacks, underscored what analysts describe as the government's two-track strategy: meting out measures it considers important reforms with one hand, while attempting to maintain tight control over black unrest and political dissent with the other.
In yet another move against political dissent, police banned a two-day international conference on religion and peace scheduled for this weekend in Soweto, South Africa's largest black urban center. Tutu, the Nobel Peace Prize winner, was to have delivered a peace lecture at the conference.
At a press conference today, Tutu argued that such a strategy would not work because the government was offering only "piecemeal reform" rather than genuine political change. Citing the recent death of a 4-year-old girl shot by police, he said the past year of violence in which more than 675 blacks have died has embittered blacks to the point where the government's offers have no meaning.
"We have reached the stage where just about any announcement the government makes about what it calls 'adjustments' or 'reform' leaves people cold," said Tutu. "Things that would have been exciting and would have had a tremendous impact a few months ago are now damp squibs."
Tutu said that until the government issued a clear statement pledging to dismantle the apartheid system of racial segregation, releasing political prisoners, lifting the state of emergency and agreeing to talks with "acknowledged leaders," including the outlawed African National Congress, it was only "playing marbles."
Tutu said he had agreed to a call for a nationwide day of prayer on Oct. 9 in which workers and students would stay at home to protest apartheid. He said he was hopeful that the protest, approved by an interdenominational meeting of South African clerics, would attract white support. If so, Tutu said, it would be the first time in South Africa's history that whites in large numbers would participate in such an action along with blacks.
Moments before his press conference, Tutu was informed that the divisional police commissioner in Soweto had banned his peace lecture and other sessions this weekend of the South African chapter of the World Conference on Religion and Peace, a Geneva-based international movement. Five foreign delegates were denied entry to South Africa.
The commissioner, Brig. Jan C. Coetzee, issued a written order saying, "The safety of members of the public and their property and the maintenance of public order" would be "seriously threatened" by the gathering.
"Anyone could ask seriously, 'are we in Alice in Wonderland?' " said Tutu. "This is crazy. One really wants to weep for this land. They now not only make it virtually impossible for peaceful protest against apartheid to take place, they are scared of people discussing peace."
Soweto, which was relatively quiet during the first 11 months of violence, has become increasingly tense in recent weeks and the majority of arrests reported today took place there. Police and soldiers attempting to enforce regulations banning school boycotts have been engaged in an ongoing test of will with black students.
A police spokesman confirmed tonight that 746 black students from Hlengiwe High School there are being held at Diepkloof Prison. Dozens of angry parents gathered outside the prison gate today seeking access to their children.
The students were arrested early yesterday morning when soldiers surrounded and moved onto the grounds of the school. Witnesses said they rounded up students in the schoolyard and from classrooms, as well as 33 teachers who were released later.
"They told us that we had been given four days to get the pupils into the class and had failed, so they would do the job themselves," said L.B. Mobobo, a teacher, who said he was punched in the face by a soldier when he tried to intervene. Priscilla Jana, a lawyer seeking to free the students, said there had been no disturbance at the school before the soldiers arrived.
The students picked up yesterday have been held under the emergency rules and may be detained up to 14 days without charge and without access to lawyers or families.
Coetzee said the matter was under investigation but could not say when the children would be released. He said an unspecified number of children under 13 also had been arrested yesterday but were released later.
Police also reported detaining 560 others this week under the emergency rules. This brings to 3,973 the total arrested since the emergency took effect in 36 cities and towns nearly eight weeks ago, 1,985 of whom are still being held. More than 300 others have been detained in areas not under emergency rule, using a different statute, South Africa's equally broad Internal Security Act, according to spokesmen for the Detainees Parents Support Committee here.
There were several other incidents in Soweto today. In one, a black youth was killed when police opened fire with shotguns to disperse a mob that stoned a policeman escorting a delivery vehicle.
Soldiers surrounded and entered the Soweto house of Winnie Mandela, wife of imprisoned black nationalist leader Nelson Mandela, her lawyer, Ismail Ayob, said tonight. He said they left two hours later after arresting four foreign journalists, three French and one West German, who were speaking to her. As a "banned" person, she may not be quoted by the local press.
A police spokesman, Maj. Steve van Rooyen, disputed Ayob's account, contending that the soldiers never entered Mandela's property and that the four journalists were picked up on the street. He said they were taken to a nearby police station and released after being ordered to leave Soweto.
Van Rooyen said journalists now need special police permits to enter Soweto.
An order banning the current issue of Newsweek magazine also took effect today. Newsweek correspondent Ray Wilkinson was expelled from South Africa yesterday because of an article the government said was damaging and distorted.
Two other persons died in incidents reported today, including a white man whose head was crushed by rocks thrown at his car when he drove into the black Crossroads area outside Cape Town to bring employes to a garage he owned.
A 15-year-old black youth died from gunshot wounds when a band of about 300 youths reportedly attacked a police barracks outside Cape Town last night. Police had opened fire with revolvers to disperse the mob wielding clubs and rocks.