As the South African government imposed its state of emergency, TIME's Johannesburg bureau mobilized to report this week's cover story on the civil unrest and the system of apartheid that fosters it. Violence was an ever present concern. Photographers Selwyn Tait and William Campbell have been repeatedly gassed by police and stoned by residents during recent ventures into black townships. Says Campbell: "As a white, one can almost feel the hate while driving through the streets. The stones that residents used to throw at our cars have now been replaced by half-bricks."
South African-born, Soweto-reared Photographer Peter Magubane returned to work last week after spending seven days in a hospital recovering from buckshot wounds received when he was caught in police crossfire at a funeral near Johannesburg. Says Magubane: "I'm fine now, but I'm a bit worried about the metal detectors at the airport when I leave. I'm still carrying 17 lead pellets in my feet and backside."
Reporter Peter Hawthorne, who has covered South Africa for TIME since 1965, was first exposed to the country's turbulence in 1960, when he walked the silent streets of Sharpeville hours after 69 blacks were killed by police gunfire. He covered the 1976 riots in Soweto, and in the past several weeks has again dodged township mobs, and a few rocks. But the danger does not deter Hawthorne. "The story is its own magnet," he says. "There are real people living here, black and white, and they have no choice but to coexist in peace or die together in war."
Johannesburg Bureau Chief Bruce Nelan took up his post only two months ago. As part of his orientation he traveled to Cape Town to meet with the leaders of the new tricameral Parliament. In addition, he, Hawthorne and Photographer Peter Jordan drove through the mountains and valleys of KwaZulu, or Zululand, in the eastern part of the country, to interview its chief minister, Mangosuthu Gatsha Buthelezi. Nelan also spoke with government officials in Johannesburg and Pretoria, the administrative capital.
He found the country more beautiful and its problems even more complex than he had expected. "By its very nature as a society based on apartheid, South Africa is a country with a split personality," he says. "The black portion is at war with itself in its segregated townships, and the white portion, which rarely sees those townships, goes about its normal life. But this time the two segments are thinking about each other constantly. I hope it is not too late for them to sit down and negotiate with each other."
John A. Meyer