South Africa's white minority government approved plans to step up the killing of anti-apartheid demonstrators in a bid to crush black revolt 20 years ago, according to newly released Cabinet minutes.
The then minister of justice and police Jimmy Kruger recommended the policy at a Cabinet meeting in August 1976, the director of the state archive, Marie Olivier, said in a telephone interview Friday.Minutes of the meeting released Thursday said Kruger had discussed the black student riots which broke out in Soweto township in June 1976 and rapidly spread to most other parts of the country.
"The minister proposes that this movement must be broken, and thinks the police should perhaps act more drastically and with a heavier hand, which would result in more deaths," the minutes, written in Afrikaans and stamped "Approved said."
At least 600 black demonstrators are believed to have been killed by police during several months of rioting in 1976, though some estimates put the figure higher.
The protests, originally sparked by government efforts to force blacks to use Afrikaans in school, were a major landmark in resistance to minority rule.
Thousands of black youths fled the country at the time to join exiled liberation movements such as Nelson Mandela's African National Congress.
Kruger, a member of the National Party who has since died, was quoted in the minutes as having told his Cabinet colleagues: "The danger is growing black consciousness and the inability to prevent the incidents (protests) because of the military precision with which the students act."