More than 30,000 blacks turned out yesterday at a funeral for 14 recent victims of unrest in South Africa. The funeral -- the first since the government imposed a partial state of emergency Sunday -- offered glimpses of the ideology and fervor that drive black activists in South Africa. Funerals are one of the only forums where blacks can gather out-of-doors legally and express themselves politically.
Those at the funeral heard an impassioned plea by Nobel Peace Prize winner Bishop Desmond Tutu. He told blacks to stop attacking fellow blacks considered to be informers or traitors and warned he would leave South Africa if such attacks continued.
The funeral at Kwathema, 20 miles east of Johannesburg, was marked by the same chants of praise for the banned African National Congress (ANC), and the same songs of defiance, which have characterized earlier funerals for the nearly 500 people who have died during almost one year of unrest in South Africa. The ANC is the main black nationalist group seeking the overthrow of the white minority-dominated government.
The chanting and singing by the thousands of blacks who crammed into the sports stadium at Kwathema were accompanied by the rhythmic stamp of feet and rising columns of dust. Voices rose and fell in unison as they acclaimed the 14 being buried as ``heroes of the struggle.''
Since the state of emergency was de-VIOLENCEVIOLENCE clared in 36 of South Africa's most strife-torn magisterial districts some 441 people have been detained, meaning they can be held indefinitely and have no right to legal representation. Those being detained are churchmen, trade unionists, and other opponents of the government. Molly Blackburn, a leading white activist, has been arrested and charged with attending an illegal gathering recently.
In a related development, Oliver Tambo, leader of the ANC, has called for the spread of rioting to the white areas of South Africa.
Guest speakers at yesterday's funeral included young men from anti-apartheid organizations who recited poems exhorting blacks to resist apartheid (the system of racial segregation) and delivered speeches praising imprisoned and exiled black nationalist leaders.
As young men and women stood guard over the coffins, clinched fists raised defiantly, a speaker from the Azanian Students' Organization proclaimed: ``We shall drink the blood of our people and carry on the struggle.'' Another speaker said to cheers: ``I shall cross to Moscow and I shall return with a bazooka.''
But when Bishop Tutu, who was the keynote speaker, took the microphone his priority was to dissuade blacks from using violent means to advance their freedom struggle. He referred to the killing of a woman suspected of being a government spy at a funeral last weekend at the neighboring township of Duduza.
``When that woman was burned to death, it was shown throughout the world on television,'' Tutu said. ``The world is full of supporters of our struggle for freedom, but when they saw it they said, `maybe these people are not yet ready for freedom.' ''
A hush fell over the section of the vast crowd in front of Bishop Tutu as he added: ``If you do it again, I will find it difficult to speak up for liberation. If you do it again, I am going to collect my family and leave the country which I love dearly.''
The Bishop ended by infusing fresh commitment to the struggle for freedom in the huge audience as he recited a litany of freedom pledges aloud with his listeners. ``We dedicate ourselves anew to the struggle for freedom for all of us, black and white,'' they chorused.
Outside police and soldiers in armored vehicles patrolled the township streets, unable, Bishop Tutu said, to enjoy freedom because blacks were unfree.
The questions observers asked were how long the police would continue to tolerate the propagation of political objectives at funerals and whether they would risk intervention.
The last time police interfered with funeral arrangements was at Langa in March. As a later judicial inquiry into the incident at Langa made clear, police interference was a major factor in the events leading to the gunning down by police of 20 blacks and the shock of revulsion sent around the world by that shooting.
The number of people killed in township violence since the state of emergency was proclaimed rose to eight yesterday. Their funerals seem set to add to the cycle South Africa is trapped in by giving further impetus to the on-going process of politicization.