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9 South African Blacks Buried as Police Watch

September 06, 1986|MICHAEL PARKS | Times Staff Writer

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — As police and soldiers ringed the cemetery, nine more victims of last week's fierce street battles in the black ghetto city of Soweto were buried there Friday in quiet graveside services.

The coffins were carried, two or three at a time, into Soweto's Avalon Cemetery, where local clergymen conducted simple services after dropping plans for another attempt at a mass funeral in defiance of police orders.

"These deaths have been real traumas for the families, and we wanted to bring this trouble to an end and ease their suffering as much as we can," said Anglican Bishop Simeon Nkoane, who led the funeral services.

On Thursday, the police prevented an estimated 5,000 mourners from gathering for a mass funeral for 24 blacks killed by police in a night of street fighting last week. Tear gas was used to disperse the mourners when they gathered at a sports stadium, again when they regrouped at two churches and later as they carried some of the coffins to the cemetery.

Coffins Amid Chaos

Fifteen of the dead were eventually buried Thursday amid such chaos that some coffins were put into the ground by the police, with no family members present.

"To put families through all this additional pain is unconscionable," Nkoane said, "and we hold the government and the police responsible for it. Why can't they let us bury our dead in the peace and dignity that is the right of any human being, any child of God? But we felt that we could not put the other families through a second confrontation that would come if we attempted another joint funeral."

Enforcing a limit of 200 mourners, the police maintained tight controls on people entering and leaving the cemetery, according to clergymen who were present. The police did not interfere with the brief services. No incidents were reported.

The police had banned mass funerals in Soweto under the 12-week-old state of emergency to prevent their becoming anti-government rallies.

Killing Report Denied

Meanwhile, the government Bureau for Information denied reports in local newspapers that the police had shot and killed as many as eight people Thursday in clashes with youths in Soweto. "In most cases, the actions of the security forces were limited to the firing of tear gas," the bureau said, summarizing Thursday's police action in Soweto.

The bureau added that so far as the police knew, the only death was that of a woman who fell beneath a train while fleeing youths who had begun to whip her for attempting to report to work in violation of the call for a protest strike by Soweto workers.

The bureau is the sole official source of information on the civil unrest here. Police regulations prohibit newsmen from covering any unrest firsthand and from reporting on any "security action" without permission.

Soweto workers returned to their jobs Friday after the one-day strike, which the independent Labor Monitoring Group described as "the most significant and successful protest initiated specifically by Soweto residents since 1976." That was the year of the "Soweto uprising," in which black students rebelled against their inferior education. Overall, more than 70% of Soweto workers stayed home Thursday, the group said.

30 Blacks Reported Slain

According to Soweto community leaders, 30 blacks were killed last week in clashes with the police. The clashes began when municipal officials attempted to evict several families in Soweto's White City district for participating in a three-month-old, community-wide rent strike. The police put the number of dead at 20, plus a city councilor who was hacked to death by a mob. The police say that most of the deaths occurred when their patrols fired in self-defense after being attacked.

The Information Bureau reported Friday that a black man was stoned to death by a mob that then burned his body near Grahamstown in eastern Cape province. In Johannesburg, security police searched offices at Khotso House, the headquarters of the South African Council of Churches, the United Democratic Front and other anti-apartheid groups, and seized a number of documents.

In Port Elizabeth, a 45-year-old ambulance driver, Nyanisile Moko, hanged himself from a rafter of his home after his eight children were detained without charge and attempts to win their release failed.

"He was quite depressed and saw nothing to live for," a daughter-in-law said. Security police have refused to permit the children, all still in detention, to attend Moko's funeral today.

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