Seven blacks were killed, at least one by police, and 45 people were injured Thursday when simmering tension in a black shanty settlement near Cape Town erupted into violence, a parliament member said. Police opened fire repeatedly during the day as crowds of up to 10,000 blacks gathered illegally in demonstrations demanding the resignation of Mali Hoza, the black township mayor of Khayelitsha.
Supporters of Nelson Mandela's African National Congress, the main black opposition group, accused Hoza of corruption and of siding with President Frederik de Klerk's white minority government against black shanty dwellers.
One witness said he saw a man killed when police shot into an advancing crowd. "An old man dropped as they started to shoot and when the (tear) gas cleared he was lying dead in the road," he said.
Democratic Party lawmaker Jan van Eck told Reuters in Khayelitsha, a sand-dune settlement about 20 miles east of Cape Town, he had firm reports from doctors of seven deaths.
Police spokesman Gys Boonzaaier said police killed one man during action to prevent an illegal protest and two others were found shot and stabbed to death. He knew of no further deaths.
Police toured the settlement, home to at least 300,000 blacks, in yellow armored trucks and in vans with wire mesh over the windows. A police helicopter circled overhead.
Police stopped repeatedly to fire tear gas, rubber bullets and shotguns at groups of blacks who gathered on the edges of the dense mass of wood, tin and plastic shacks, burning barricades and stoning traffic.
Some witnesses said they saw police fire rifles and pistols, but Boonzaaier denied this.
"Doctors at one hospital told me they had three bodies, and there were four at the Groote Schuur mortuary," Van Eck said.
"Some women told us that four black men in civilian clothes shot one of the victims with a 9mm pistol _ the kind issued to the black town councilors _ but they were too scared to name the attackers," he said.
The clashes erupted less than a week after Van Eck sent a letter to de Klerk urging him to intervene to prevent an explosion of violence and anarchy in Khayelitsha.
"The only thing to do is to get rid of the black council and appoint an administrator until these racist bodies can be replaced by non-racial local governments," he said.
Hosa's council was elected in a 1987 local government poll that drew a total of 19,000 voters _ fewer than 10 percent of those qualified to participate. The ANC, which opposes ethnic government, urged blacks to boycott the vote.
Youths who gathered on a bridge in the center of Khayelitsha, near a roadblock manned by rifle-toting police, complained they were being shot at for no reason.
"Why do they keep trying to kill us? What do they want from us?" said one boy aged about 16.
Sporadic clashes have broken out in Khayelitsha over the past month. Dozens of houses have been burned down and scores of people injured.
Tension soared last week when activist Michael Mapongwana's wife was killed in an attack blamed by the ANC on groups loyal to mayor Hoza. Hoza's home was later riddled with bullets in an apparent revenge attack, and the township council's offices were damaged by an explosion and fire.