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Blacks Defy S. Africa Regime at Funerals : 45,000 Turn Services for Eight Into Rallies for Outlawed Group

March 16, 1986|MICHAEL PARKS | Times Staff Writer

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — Eight suspected guerrillas of the African National Congress were buried as heroes Saturday in Cape Town and Port Elizabeth in the boldest demonstration yet of support for the outlawed organization among South Africa's black majority.

More than 15,000 mourners defied government restrictions to turn the Cape Town funeral of seven blacks killed by police in an ambush two weeks ago into a political rally in support of the congress.

In Port Elizabeth, about 30,000 blacks gathered for the funeral of a youth, also suspected of belonging to the congress' military wing, who was killed when he apparently blew himself up with a hand grenade rather than surrender to police.

Speaking at the Cape Town rites, Aubreky Mokoena of the Release Mandela Committee said: "We are not here to mourn but to pick up and carry further the spear of liberation. One day, we will be free. . . . Their blood was not shed in vain, but for our liberation. These men are martyrs and heroes of our struggle."

Impatient for Change

Edgar Ngoyi, regional president of the United Democratic Front, a coalition of anti-apartheid groups, told the Port Elizabeth mourners that the government of President Pieter W. Botha is being shown "how the people are destroying the (apartheid) system day after day. No longer are we prepared to wait for Botha to make changes in our country."

Despite government restrictions, these funerals and two others--at Atteridgeville near Pretoria and at Orkney, about 110 miles southwest of Johannesburg--all quickly became rallies in support of the African National Congress, the main guerrilla group fighting for black rule in South Africa.

"Blacks will win with their AK-47s," youths in Port Elizabeth chanted as some brandished models of the Soviet-designed assault rifle that the guerrillas use. The coffins of 13 people buried Saturday were all draped in the black, green and gold colors of the congress, and speaker after speaker hailed the guerrilla organization as the true champion of the country's 25 million blacks.

Meanwhile, six black miners and a security guard, also black, were killed as a weeklong strike flared into violence at the Blyvooruitzicht Gold Mine, near Carltonville, about 45 miles southwest of Johannesburg. More than 200 others were injured in a night of fighting, according to South African police.

About 1,500 miners rioted late Friday after the arrest of two officials of the black National Union of Mineworkers on charges of intimidating miners to continue their work stoppage, according to Greg Kukard, a spokesman for Rand Mines Ltd., the mine operator. About 9,500 miners have been on strike for higher production bonuses despite union calls to return to work so that the issue can be negotiated.

When the mine's security force could not quell the disturbance with tear gas and rubber bullets, according to police and company spokesmen, police riot units intervened. Police used tear gas and birdshot to turn back a march by the black miners on a nearby white residential neighborhood.

Two more deaths were reported elsewhere in the country's continuing civil strife.

Police clashed repeatedly with mourners after some of Saturday's funerals, but no serious injuries were reported.

In Cape Town, tear gas was used to disperse groups of mourners continuing their protest after the daylong funeral.

The families of two of the men have denied that they were members of the African National Congress and said that they had left home early that day simply to look for work.

Witnesses have told local newspapers and sympathetic politicians that one of the seven slain men was shot while surrendering and that a second was shot while he lay motionless on the ground.

The Atteridgeville funeral for two residents killed in a riot earlier this month had been banned by the government, but nearly 1,000 people defied the authorities to attend. Police seized the African National Congress flag from the coffins as they were carried to the cemetery and stripped T-shirts with slogans from the mourners, leaving some women bare-breasted, according to reporters who were present.

In Orkney, police fired tear gas at an estimated 10,000 mourners as they left the cemetery in defiance of an order banning marches through the streets.

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