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Botha's Move Not Enough, Blacks Say : Funeral Speakers Urge More Protests Despite Plan to End Emergency

March 06, 1986|MICHAEL PARKS | Times Staff Writer

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — Black political leaders called Wednesday for continued anti-apartheid protests despite the minority white government's statement that it will lift the six-month-old state of emergency, probably on Friday.

Speaking at a mass funeral for 17 victims of recent civil strife, the leaders warned that the government must do much more to meet black demands if the unrest is to end and a dialogue is to begin on resolving the country's problems.

"We are going to pin this government against the wall more and more," Albertina Sisulu, co-president of the United Democratic Front and wife of one of the imprisoned leaders of the African National Congress, Walter Sisulu, told more than 20,000 mourners in Alexandra, one of Johannesburg's black ghettos. "Lifting the state of emergency--that doesn't mean anything, man. We want freedom, that's what we want."

President Pieter W. Botha told the Parliament on Tuesday that he intends to lift the state of emergency, which gives the police virtually martial-law powers, in an effort to bring moderate black leaders into open discussions on the future.

Black Reaction Cautious

But the announcement has been greeted by blacks with more caution and skepticism than praise. Speakers at the Alexandra funeral made clear not only how deep the divisions are in South Africa but how great the hostility is between the country's black majority and the minority white government.

"We in South Africa have a war going on," said the Rev. Frank Chikane, another leader of the United Democratic Front, "and we need to realize that it truly is a war, one between the people and the forces of the apartheid regime. . . . This government is not here to keep law and order, as it pretends, but to murder the people.

"They must know that we can't just sit back and keep burying our people as they are killed. . . . When are we going to do something about the machine that keeps killing our people?"

Killed in Clashes

The 17 buried Wednesday, in one of the largest mass funerals in South Africa over the last year and a half of unrest, were among those killed in four days of fierce clashes with police in Alexandra last month.

The police maintain that the death toll in Alexandra was 23, including a black policeman killed as a government collaborator by angry residents. Alexandra's community leaders put the total at 30 or more, counting those buried Wednesday and those still in the government mortuary. They say the figure could be as high as 50.

Black nationalist leader Winnie Mandela, tears streaming down her cheeks and apparently too distraught to speak, told the mourners in a message read by Chikane that "over the blood of our sons and daughters, we will march to freedom."

"We want the enemy to know that even this price is not too great to pay for freedom," she said, speaking for imprisoned and exiled leaders of the African National Congress, including her husband Nelson Mandela, as well as herself.

Dressed in black, Winnie Mandela, who is called "mother of the nation" by many blacks, received a tumultuous welcome when she joined the mourners in Alexandra's dusty, sun-scorched soccer stadium for the 5 1/2-hour funeral.

Diplomats of 7 Nations

Leading members of the liberal, white opposition Progressive Federal Party, hundreds of clergymen from throughout the Johannesburg area and diplomats from Australia, Britain, Canada, France, the Netherlands, the United States and West Germany also attended.

Each of the 17 coffins was draped in the African National Congress' black, green and gold flag. Winnie Mandela presented a large wreath in the congress' colors. One speaker after another called on the South African government to legalize the organization, banned in 1960, and to undertake with it the political dialogue that Botha says he wants with black leaders.

Until Mandela and other political prisoners are released, exiles permitted to return and the African National Congress allowed to operate legally again, most blacks will refuse to undertake any negotiations with the government, Curnick Ndlovu, executive chairman of the United Democratic Front, said to the cheers of the mourners as the funeral turned into a political rally.

Vusi Khanyile, a secretary of the Soweto Parents' Crisis Committee, which had insisted on lifting the state of emergency as a basic condition for getting black students to end their school boycott and thus to reduce tension in the urban black townships, said later Wednesday that Botha's action fell far short of the committee's demands.

Botha's 'Old Tricks'

"Botha is up to his old tricks," Khanyile said. "All he is really doing is getting rid of the state-of-emergency name. The police powers will stay, our children will still be detained and troops will still be in the townships."

These tough, uncompromising stands by two major anti-apartheid groups mean that even lifting the state of emergency will not provide the impetus the government's reform proposals need to win broad black acceptance.

Black militancy, meanwhile, is clearly growing.

"The communities in the (black) townships are determined to resist the oppressive system of South Africa," Chikane said. "These people are prepared to die for the cause they are fighting for."

And Sisulu bluntly warned, "What is happening to black children today will happen to white children tomorrow."

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