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Slain S. African Buried Amid Heavy Security

February 07, 1988|MICHAEL PARKS | Times Staff Writer

CAPE TOWN, South Africa — A black student activist found slain after alleging that he had been tortured by South African police was buried Saturday amid strict security measures intended to prevent his funeral from becoming an anti-government protest.

Police and soldiers kept all but 200 mourners away from the funeral in Soweto of Sicelo Dlomo, 18, and used tear gas to disperse crowds of angry youths from around the church, cemetery and family home in the black township outside Johannesburg.

Freedom Songs Banned

They also prevented the Rev. Frank Chikane, general secretary of the South African Council of Churches, from attending the funeral, where he was to be the main preacher, and intervened during the service itself when anti-apartheid "freedom songs" were sung. Political speeches, flags and banners were prohibited.

Appearing in December on "Children of Apartheid," a CBS television documentary, Dlomo had accused the police of torturing him. He was detained last month, questioned about his allegations and then released, according to his family and lawyer. Five days later, he was found dead, shot in the back of the head.

Police have offered a $2,500 reward for information on Dlomo's killers and promised intensive efforts to solve the murder. Anti-apartheid groups contend, however, that the authorities rarely solve such cases, leading to suspicions in the community that the government tolerates hit-squad murders of its political opponents.

'Enemy of Our People'

"We have heard that (the authorities) believe a black organization killed Sicelo," Father Stephen Mbande said in his sermon during the funeral. "It is a lie. We all know the truth, we all know who killed him. Those who killed him are the enemy of our people. Our people are together, and the enemy is trying to break the unity among us."

Although armed police were standing at the doors and in the back of the church, anti-apartheid activists tried to make the funeral as much a political observance as they could.

"In Zambia, children are born," a woman from the small congregation said, reciting a poem. "In Zimbabwe, children are born. But in South Africa, slaves are born. Sicelo was a typical product of the South African revolution, he was a hero to the people."

And when police barred another young activist from reading a series of messages of support from anti-apartheid groups, he left and quietly reappeared as an altar boy to deliver them.

Diplomats from the United States and five West European countries attended the three-hour service to display international concern.

"Children of Apartheid" contrasted the lives of black and white youths in South Africa and featured President Pieter W. Botha's daughter, Rozanne, and Zinzi Mandela, daughter of Nelson R. Mandela, an imprisoned leader of the African National Congress.

Jailed in January

Dlomo's account of having been repeatedly detained was one of the most moving segments in the program, and he was arrested in late January outside the South African Council of Churches when a security police officer recognized him.

Police have said that Dlomo, when questioned in January, signed a sworn statement saying that he was told what to say in the documentary and that he feared for his life because of threats from a rival political group.

CBS News and the Detainees' Parents Support Committee, for which Dlomo had been working, have both denied that he was told what to say or coached in any way.

In the strife-torn province of Natal, meanwhile, a 90-year-old man and a 4-year-old girl were among the latest victims of a feud between supporters of the United Democratic Front, a coalition of anti-apartheid groups, and the politically conservative, predominantly Zulu Inkatha movement of Chief Mangosuthu Gatsha Buthelezi.

Times researcher Michael Cadman contributed to this report from Soweto.

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