SOWETO, SOUTH AFRICA, AUG. 16 -- Savage, hand-to-hand fighting between rival black factions spread today to Soweto, where men with spears and axes rampaged through a train station hacking terrified passengers to death. The death toll rose to 156 in five days of fighting.
President F.W. de Klerk and his law and order minister, Adriaan Vlok, met with African National Congress Deputy President Nelson Mandela and other ANC officials to discuss the violence. Just before midnight, they told a news conference at the Soweto police station that a forum including police and leaders of all parties involved would meet Friday to find the cause of the violence.
Hundreds of Zulus fell upon railway passengers of the Xhosa tribe, witnesses said, pulling screaming people from the platform, killing several and wounding many. Zulus and Xhosas also fought at the main station in Johannesburg, leaving one man dead and six people injured, police said.
Officers said at least 14 people died today in Soweto, neighboring Dobsonville and Johannesburg, and more than 100 were injured.
No immediate response to the peace-forum propsal came from leaders of the conservative, Zulu-based Inkatha Movement, whose supporters have been fighting Xhosa-speaking ANC supporters in Soweto and other townships around Johannesburg.
Mandela has accused police of instigating or allowing the fighting between black factions in order to eliminate ANC support. Police have denied it. The exchange between Mandela and Vlok at tonight's meeting was described as "very frank."
Also tonight, white, right-wing protesters allegedly fired tear gas into a community hall where de Klerk had been giving a speech. "Our eyes may be tearing and our noses may be running, but we will not be intimidated," de Klerk told a crowd of more than 2,000 after Afrikaner Resistance Movement hecklers disrupted his speech in northern Natal province.
The tear-gas canister was fired into the hall after de Klerk and most of the audience had left to get away from the chanting, singing right-wing protesters. Police were using dogs and batons to herd the hecklers toward the door when the canister was fired by right-wingers, police said. No one was injured or arrested.
The black fighting had been concentrated in the eastern province of Natal, where more than 5,000 blacks have died since 1985. Its spread to Johannesburg indicates the power struggle is heating up as the white government moves toward sharing power with the black majority.