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S. Africa Hangs 2 Blacks for Murder

September 02, 1987|MICHAEL PARKS | Times Staff Writer

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — Two black men were hanged Tuesday in Pretoria for the killings of a black town councilor and five of his relatives during the political violence that swept South Africa in 1985.

Wellington Mielies, 26, and Moses Jantjies, 23, were among the first to be executed in the government's declared campaign to prosecute and punish those believed responsible for the murders, arson, assaults and other crimes during the widespread civil unrest of the last three years.

But their executions at Pretoria Central Prison early Tuesday brought immediate calls, the most militant in many months, for their deaths to be avenged and the country's white-led minority government to be brought down.

"The blood of your comrades did not flow in vain," Winnie Mandela, the black nationalist leader, told a memorial meeting of more than 400 at the South African Council of Churches here, speaking on behalf of the outlawed African National Congress and its military wing, Spear of the Nation.

Mike Ndeme, a leader of the militant South African Youth Congress from eastern Cape province, said: "Something must be done today to avenge the blood of our comrades. Everything must be a weapon, every home must be a guerrilla base. We must defend ourselves, we will continue where our fallen comrades left off."

And Vusi Khumalo, president of the Post Office and Telecommunications Workers Staff Assn., declared, "This is not the time to mourn the dead but to say to workers and the community that our young lions will rise.

"There can be no revolutionary change in this country unless the young lions join the only solution, Umkhonto we Sizwe," Khumalo continued, using the Zulu name of Spear of the Nation. "We can no longer see our people hanged. The only way is to storm Pretoria and to get them out (off death row) so they can go to the bush to fight."

33 Awaiting Execution

Heavily armed police, acting under the country's state of emergency, surrounded the headquarters of the South African Council of Churches before the memorial service, searching those entering and leaving the building. A confrontation was avoided at the end of the service when clergy intervened. But police clashed with a few members of the striking Post Office and Telecommunications Workers Staff Assn. as they left another meeting at a nearby building in downtown Johannesburg.

Scattered violence was reported in Cape Town and in eastern Cape province, however, when police used tear gas to disperse groups of protesters after other memorial services.

Thirty-three more people are now awaiting execution following their convictions on murder charges, mostly in the deaths of black policemen, town councilors and suspected government collaborators, but also on terrorism charges in the planting of bombs and land mines in the ANC's 25-year guerrilla war against the Pretoria government.

The two sentenced to hang most recently were convicted in Pretoria this week of stoning a black policeman to death, placing a gasoline-soaked tire around his body and setting it on fire in Soshanguve, a black ghetto township outside the city, in February.

Mielies and Jantjies, who were hanged with five criminals, were executed despite numerous appeals from groups here as well as from foreign governments for clemency.

The two were "victims of a situation in this country not of their making," the Detainees' Parents Support Committee had said in its appeal, and Archbishop Desmond Tutu had told President Pieter W. Botha in a message that "an act of clemency on your part will defuse a very volatile situation in the community."

Although they were regarded as political prisoners and anti-apartheid activists by the government's opponents, Pretoria has made clear in repeated statements that it considers them and others sentenced to death for unrest-related crimes to be convicted criminals.

"The normal process of law will be implemented," a spokesman for the Justice Department said before the executions. "The court made a decision, and the process will continue unless it is stopped by the court."

Mielies and Jantjies had been convicted, along with three youths, of murdering Thamsanqa Kinikini, 57, his sons Silumko, 20, and Stanley, 13, and three relatives in March, 1985, at Kwanobuhle, a black township outside Uitenhage in eastern Cape province. The three youths received prison sentences ranging up to 20 years.

The six Kinikinis were killed in a mob attack on the family's funeral home in Kwanobuhle on March 23, 1985, after the fatal police shooting two days earlier of 20 blacks at Langa, another Uitenhage township, and the abductions earlier that day of four local activists who had allegedly been kidnaped by associates of Kinikini.

Killed, Bodies Burned

The Kinikinis were stabbed and stoned to death, and then their bodies were burned with gasoline and old tires as photographers recorded the gruesome scene. State-run television on Tuesday showed a long film excerpt of the murder as an announcer read part of the court judgment in what seemed to be a government attempt to use the case as an example.

Defense witnesses had testified about a virtual "reign of terror" conducted for many months by vigilantes under the Kinikinis. One girl told how she had been abducted by the Kinikini boys, raped repeatedly and then kept in a coffin overnight at the funeral home; other youths said they had been picked up by the vigilantes as suspected anti-apartheid activists, beaten and locked in the funeral parlor's freezer with corpses awaiting burial.

The last message of the two men executed Tuesday was to "remain strong and continue the struggle," according to their parents who saw them a last time the day before.

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