JOHANNESBURG -- The African National Congress Sunday blamed the South African police for failing to prevent a gun attack on ANC leaders which left one journalist dead and two wounded.
Freelance photographer Abdul Shariff died while on assignment for The Associated Press to record the visit by ANC leaders and their South African Communist Party allies to strife-torn townships east of Johannesburg.
Two other journalists were injured in the 30-minute attack and a number of township residents were wounded. Unconfirmed media reports said that at least one township resident died when the unknown gunmen opened fire.
The delegation, led by ANC Secretary-General Cyril Ramaphosa and South African Communist Party leader Joe Slovo, was attacked as it moved along the border of Katlehong and Thokoza townships.
Neither Ramaphosa nor Slovo were injured in the attack, which was launched from a migrant worker's hostel overlooking the area visited by the delegation.
Township residents blamed the attack on supporters of the rival Zulu- dominated Inkatha Freedom Party, but police were unable to confirm this.
At a news conference, senior police officers said they were not even sure whether three gunmen arrested shortly after the shooting were responsible. A fourth gunman died during a shootout with police.
Slovo told journalists the delegation was visiting the area to try identify the cause of political violence which has left more than 1,200 dead since last May.
The ANC has often blamed police of involvement in township violence and said they have been unwilling to stop it from spreading.
ANC spokesman Carl Niehaus said it was the police's duty to have provided protection for the delegation and their failure to do so resulted inthe attack.
'The injuries that did take place, and especially the death of Abdul Shariff, could have been avoided if the police actually carried out their duties, as one would expect from them,' Niehaus told Johannesburg Radio 702.
Police claimed it was the ANC's responsibility to request protection, but admitted they were unable to provide normal policing in Thokoza and Katlehong, the current hot spots of political violence in South Africa.
The ongoing political violence, which claimed more than 4,000 lives in 1993, is regarded as major threat to the holding of free and fair elections in April.
ANC President Nelson Mandela is expected to meet President Frederik de Klerk Tuesday to discuss the problem of political violence. The government denies it is involved in the violence and blames it on rivalry between the ANC and Inkatha.
The Transitional Executive Council, a multiparty body established to guide South Africa to nonracial elections, is also expected to debate ways of ending political violence when it meets Tuesday.
Shariff was the second journalist to die in political violence since early 1993. The South African Union of Journalists reports 89 attacks on journalists during 1993 by mainly white supremacists or militant black youths.