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Winnie Mandela Attends Rites in Soweto : Slain S. African Rebel Buried as a Hero

July 28, 1987|MICHAEL PARKS | Times Staff Writer

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — An African National Congress guerrilla commander, assassinated earlier this month in Swaziland, received a hero's burial in Soweto on Monday in a demonstration of black support for the insurgents.

Peter S. Motau, 32, who led guerrillas in eastern Transvaal province, was praised in funeral orations by local ministers as a "soldier . . . who fell fighting for his people," by his parents as "a hero paving the way for all black people" and by Winnie Mandela, wife of imprisoned ANC leader Nelson Mandela, as trying to "create a new society" in South Africa.

Motau had been a member of the ANC's military wing since he left the country 11 years ago, and he has made a considerable reputation in the last two years as "Paul Dikeledi," a young and aggressive regional commander.

He was killed in an ambush three weeks ago on the road from the airport to the Swazi capital of Mbabane by white gunmen driving a South African-registered car.

Blamed on 'Death Squads'

Cassius Make, 45, a member of the ANC's national executive committee and a top official of Spear of the Nation, its military wing, was also killed in the attack, one of a series that the ANC has blamed on South African government "death squads."

Make, who was born Job Shimangana Tabane, was buried 10 days ago in Lusaka, Zambia, where the outlawed ANC, South Africa's principal black liberation group, has its headquarters.

"We will see that people will carry out the work that Peter Motau was doing, his work to create a new society," Winnie Mandela said after Motau's funeral in Soweto, the black township outside Johannesburg. She said she attended the service to convey the sympathy of the ANC's imprisoned and exiled leadership, and added, "The death of this young man who loved his country so dearly did not go unnoticed."

Motau came from an old ANC family. His father, David, was arrested in 1969 and detained for 17 months without charge, along with Winnie Mandela and 20 others, and then tried and acquitted of charges of helping the ANC. A cousin, detained as a youth leader in 1969, was committed to a mental hospital. An uncle, Elias Motsoaledi, his mother's elder brother, was sentenced to life imprisonment in 1964, along with Nelson Mandela and other ANC leaders.

Severe Restrictions

The police, using powers provided under South Africa's state of emergency, imposed severe restrictions on Motau's funeral. They limited attendance to 200 family members and friends, although many more attended, and prohibited all political speeches and demonstrations.

Large numbers of heavily armed riot police and combat troops were nearby throughout the service at the Motau home and for the burial in Soweto's Avalon Cemetery. They kept their distance except to arrest six black youths whose T-shirts were regarded as "political" or who were sought in connection with other cases.

Motau's father, 64, ignored the police restrictions and spoke with passion at the service.

"This son has been violent not because he wanted to be but because of the frustration one has in this country," he said, advancing the ANC argument that its 26-year-old "armed struggle" is necessary if South Africa's black majority is ever to gain equality and if the apartheid system of racial separation and minority white rule is to be ended.

"This is the devil's government, not God's," the senior Motau continued. "God is love, and Jesus Christ came to provide love. Anyone who hates is the devil's son. Yet, this government is based largely on hate. . . . If Christians lived this way, no one could ever follow Christian teaching. . . . I appeal to all in this government to let us come together and talk."

Meanwhile, anti-apartheid activists in the Institute for a Democratic Alternative for South Africa, which organized recent talks between the ANC and 50 white South Africans in Dakar, Senegal, expressed their fears on Monday that the killing of an institute official, Mxolise Eric Mtonga, was the work of what they called "death squads" and that others might also become targets.

"This murder is the most recent of a number of apparently unsolved deaths in that area," said Alex Boraine, executive director of the institute. He continued:

"I have had a lot of personal threats, and there have been similar calls to our office. Our black staff are the most vulnerable. . . . All the indications point towards the execution-style murder that has taken place so frequently in the eastern Cape. The fact that his hands were tied behind his back when he was stabbed suggests an assassination."

The Dakar meeting, the biggest and most important meeting that the ANC has held with white South Africans, will be debated by Parliament in Cape Town this week. The opposition Conservative Party has said it will demand prosecution of those who took part, including present and former members of Parliament from the liberal Progressive Federal Party.

Also on Monday, officials of the Leslie Gold Mine east of Johannesburg reported that five miners, all blacks, died in the country's continuing violence. The fighting, which began Sunday night and continued Monday, involved as many as 500 miners armed with knives, machetes and clubs. The National Union of Mineworkers was trying to mediate between the mine's feuding factions.

Police headquarters in Pretoria said that a black officer was shot twice and seriously wounded by unidentified radicals who burst into his home near Cape Town.

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