Thousands of blacks converged on a tiny church in the township of Tsakane yesterday to pay homage to Andries Raditsela, the trade union leader who died of brain injuries last week shortly after being released from detention by police But on a nation-wide scale there was a minimal response from black workers to a call by trade unions for them to either stay away for the whole day or to participate in a two-hour work stoppage as a sign of protest at Mr. Raditsela's death.
In the white town of Brakpan, however, the absence of black workers was high. Brakpan is adjacent to Tsakane, where Raditsela lived and was buried yesterday.
But even before Brakpan felt the effects of the boycott it was rocked by three bomb explosions. The targets were all government buildings, including police living quarters. No one was hurt in the blasts.
At Tsakane hundreds of blacks, many in T-shirts and caps proclaiming their allegiance to trade unions and political organizations, squeezed into the small Methodist church. Several thousand more gathered in the yard outside and on the nearby streets, listening to speeches relayed by loudspeakers.
As the crowd shouted its approval of speakers who denounced apartheid and detention without trial, armoured vehicles carrying police and soldiers patrolled the streets only two blocks away.
The president of the 130,000-member Federation of South African Trade Unions, Chris Dlamini, referred to the police and soldiers in his funeral oration. They were forced to occupy the townships because the whites had ``stolen our country,'' he told the crowd.
Bishop Simeon Nkoane, Suffragan Anglican Bishop of Johannesburg, appealed to blacks to use the death of Raditsela as an opportunity to end quarrels in their own ranks. ``Unless we have reconciliation we will commit suicide,'' he said.
Tsakane was the scene of fierce fighting last week between migrant workers housed in barrack-like hostels and family-based residents. Sixteen blacks died in the fratricidal strife.