Rival black factions armed with axes, spears and guns fought running battles over the weekend that left at least 78 people dead and left some townships in flames, police said Monday.

At least 52 black men were shot and hacked to death late Sunday and early Monday in Tokoza in some of the worst factional fighting in recent months, police said. Fighting also broke out in Katlehong, Tembisa and Sebokeng townships, with 71 people in all killed in the Johannesburg area, police said.Law and Order Minister Adriaan Vlok imposed an overnight curfew in Tokoza and Katlehong, declaring them unrest areas. The curfew affected about a half-million blacks who live in the two townships.

Elsewhere, at least seven people were killed in weekend fighting in Natal Province. Police said some 800 men armed with guns and knives fought near Pietermaritzburg in clashes between the conservative Inkatha and factions of the African National Congress.

Heavily armed police and troops in armored vehicles moved into Tokoza Monday to halt fighting. Police in armored vehicles kept watch as hundreds of Xhosas armed with clubs, axes and spears marched through the area singing and brandishing weapons.

ANC leader Nelson Mandela and Vlok toured Tokoza on Sunday night to try to help restore order. Police said the two men visited squatter areas hit by fighting.

South African Communist Party leader Joe Slovo accused security forces of inciting the violence.