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12 Blacks Slain, 20 Injured in Shooting in South Africa

August 23, 1993| From Associated Press

GERMISTON, South Africa — A black man with an AK-47 assault rifle opened fire Sunday on a group of blacks planning the burial of a man slain last month, killing 12 people and wounding 20.

The shooting occurred near the site of a gruesome political massacre last month, but police and witnesses said the motive was unclear.

Most violence between blacks has been linked to the rivalry between Nelson Mandela's African National Congress and the Zulu-dominated Inkatha Freedom Party. This fighting is blamed for the deaths of 10,000 blacks in the past three years.

Hours after the killings, bloody bodies lay beside toppled plastic chairs outside the workers hostel at the huge Scaw Metals factory complex in Germiston, 10 miles east of Johannesburg.

Most of the victims were from the Tsomo Burial Society, which represents people from the Tsomo district. The society arranges for bringing back and burying the bodies of people who have died in other areas.

Welcome Mtwazi, a member of the society, said they were making arrangements for a Tsomo man killed July 31 in a nearby township. While the gathering was taking place, three men in long coats walked up the street.

One of the men pulled out an AK-47 assault rifle and started firing, said Mtwazi, who was sitting a few yards from where most of the victims were found. It was not certain if the other men were armed.

Nine bodies were at the meeting site and two more were inside the hostel, where shots also were fired, Police Capt. Wikus Weber said. Another victim died later in a hospital.

Some survivors cut themselves badly when they leaped through a window to get inside the hostel.

"We just heard a gun--bang, bang, bang," said Ephraim Masuku, who was visiting his father in an adjacent reception hall.

Weber said 11 men and one woman died, and 20 people were wounded. All the victims were black.

No arrests had been made Sunday night, and police offered a $75,000 reward for information leading to a conviction.

The burial society, which often held meetings at the factory, is composed of members of the Xhosa tribe from Transkei, one of 10 tribal homelands set up under apartheid and the birthplace of Mandela.

Xhosas often are associated with the African National Congress, but Mtwazi said the burial society was nonpolitical.

The ANC, however, called the shooting a political attack.

The shooting was the latest in a string of mass killings in the Johannesburg area. Most have occurred in black townships. The factory is in an industrial area of Germiston, a white suburb, but its labor force is mainly black.

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