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Thousands Rampage Through Harare, Upset Over Machel’s Death

October 21, 1986

HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) _ Thousands of angry black youths who blamed South Africa for the death of Mozambique’s president today smashed offices, overturned cars, threw firebombs and attacked shoppers and office workers.

The targets included the U.S. Embassy, and diplomatic missions and state airlines offices of South Africa and Malawi, the only African nation that has diplomatic ties with South Africa.

Police said many people were injured, but none seriously.

More than 50 demonstrators were arrested during three hours of rioting, authorities said.

The violence erupted after a gathering at the Mozambique Embassy to mourn Samora Machel who died Sunday when his plane crashed 45 miles from the Mozambican capital of Maputo, just 200 yards inside South Africa.

About 5,000 rioters - nearly all of them black - rampaged throughout the city with cans of gasoline, rocks and tree branches.

A group of young whites abducted two black demonstrators at gunpoint near the University of Zimbabwe campus and took off in three cars, Zimbabwe’s Inter-African news agency reported.

Black mobs ordered a group of whites caught in the middle of the melee to chant anti-South African slogans. Many of those who refused were beaten.

The offices of Air Malawi and South African Airways were gutted by firebombs and the crowd tried to prevent firefighters from putting out the blaze. Windows were smashed at the two-story Malawi High Commission on the fringe of the city center, and a Malawi diplomatic mini-bus was overturned.

The South African Trade Mission, which serves as a consulate and commercial agency for the South African government, had windows smashed on five floors but metal security doors prevented the rioters from getting inside.

Witnesses said at least two middle-age white women were punched and kicked outside the South African Airways. They apparently were not seriously injured.

The rioters flung rocks at the walled-in U.S. Embassy, breaking some windows, before police dispersed them with tear gas. The Inter-African news agency said a Marine guard had threatened to shoot if the mob tried to storm the embassy.

In Washington, White House spokesman Larry Speakes told reporters that the embassy closed for the day and that all but essential personnel was sent home. He said there were no injuries.

Several hundred protesters marched on the central police station, demanding the release of one of their leaders who had been arrested, but fled when riot police fired tear gas.

An undetermined number of shoppers and office workers caught in the melee were punched and kicked, and car windows were smashed.

Some shoppers and journalists who fled for safety into department stores and office blocks were chased and beaten, witnesses said.

″It’s all a result of what is happening in South Africa,″ said Italian Romano Onorati, who watched helplessly as rocks were thrown through the plate- glass window of his Europa Cafe next door to Air Malawi.

Associated Press photographer Peter Winterbach, a white Zimbabwean, said he was punched twice by demonstrators after his car was stopped in the capital.

″There was screaming and shouting, my windows were being smashed and people were jumping up and down on my bonnet (hood),″ he said. ″It was a frightening experience. They just went crazy.″

Truckloads of police with riot gear were patrolling the city center as the youths huddled in scattered groups, singing militant songs and chanting slogans calling for the death of President P.W. Botha of South Africa.

Foreign Minister R.F. Botha of South Africa appealed to the Zimbabwean government to take immediate steps to ensure the protection of the South African offices and their staff.

The demonstrators earlier had delivered an emotional address at the Mozambique Embassy on the death of Machel. Carlos dos Santos, an embassy third secretary, thanked them for their support.

The demonstrators said they were convinced South Africa was involved in the death of Machel, Zimbabwe’s staunchest ally, and accused Malawi of supporting South African-backed guerrillas fighting Mozambique’s Marxist government.

Today’s disturbances appeared to be the most violent street demonstrations here since Zimbabwe’s independence from Britain on April 18, 1980.

Prime Minister Robert Mugabe cut short a private visit to London and returned home a few hours before the demonstrations began. There was no immediate reaction from him or his aides to the violence.

In Johannesburg, the newspaper Business Day and The Citizen quoted the Soviet pilot as saying from his hospital bed that the plane had been shot down, but South African officials were quoted as saying the crash was due to bad weather and piloterror.

Machel, 53, was returning to Maputo from Zambia when his plane crashed. There were 10 survivors.

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