ANC buries Ciskei victims

Click to follow
The Independent Online
SEVENTY THOUSAND people gathered in King William's Town stadium, across the artificial frontier in South Africa proper, to attend a memorial service yesterday for their comrades who were cut down in cold blood during last week's march to the border of the Ciskei black 'homeland'.

But the day ended in violence when the crowds going home looted and burned businesses. In Mdantsane, Ciskei's second-largest township, one person was reported shot dead and two wounded during attacks on a hotel. About 500 people first stoned the hotel then charged it.

Earlier, the African National Congress buried the victims of the massacre - with similiar angry defiance that cost others their lives - in the knowledge that, for the moment at least, the deaths have drawn South Africa's leaders away from confrontation.

The lingering contradictions of apartheid were in full view. Mourners waved posters denouncing Ciskei's military leader, Brigadier Oupa Gqozo, as a 'madman' and President F W de Klerk as his accomplice in the killing of 28 people and injuring of about 200 others who were demanding the homeland leader's removal from power last week. Among the most popular speakers at the funeral was another homeland dictator, Transkei's Bantu Holomisa.

Twenty-seven coffins were laid before the crowd in temperatures above 110F. Twelve of them were buried yesterday. Thousands had attended the overnight vigil, and spearheaded the main gathering in the Victoria Ground cricket stadium. They filed in from early morning.

Behind each coffin stood an ANC marshal in silent vigil, fist raised over the casket, a sign with the victim's name in his left hand. 'Phumla Ngoxolo, Rest in Peace', one said. Most of the coffins were draped in ANC colours.

Either way, the graves cut into the harsh, dry earth - so different from the soft, green pasture of an English cemetery - were a fitting place for people who lived harsh lives, and died harsh deaths.

Brigadier Gqozo, as the funeral service gathered pace, showed no remorse. 'That was not a march last week, that was a military invasion led by military men. That was an abortive coup d'etat and the leaders should be put under arrest,' he said, before describing himself as 'a peace-loving man who abhors all violence'.

For the mourners the intense heat did little to cool the anger, and the speakers were in no mood to help. Chris Hani, the Communist Party chief, whose party has been accused by the South African government of leading lambs to the slaughter at Bisho, strafed a broad range of opponents.

'We hate de Klerk, we hate Pik Botha (the Foreign Minister), we hate Hernus Kriel (the Law and Order Minister), we hate apartheid, we hate capitalists,' he cried.

Notably absent were Nelson Mandela, the ANC president, and Cyril Ramaphosa, the secretary-general, who was among those pinned to the ground by the Ciskei forces' gunfire last week. Mr Ramaphosa has since spearheaded the new-found reconciliation expected to lead to a summit between the government and ANC.

But the ANC deputy president, Walter Sisulu, kept the defiance over the homelands alive among the rank and file.

'No part of South Africa, be it in Ciskei, Bophuthatswana or KwaZulu, should be a no-go areas for the democratic forces,' he said.

Not mentioned was the neighbouring homeland of Transkei, whose military leader, Gen Holomisa, an ANC sympathiser, received the most spirited reception at the funeral. He was greeted with chants of: 'The general with a difference.'

The ANC has deliberately excluded the general from its campaign to depose homeland leaders to allow free political activity. But, in one area at least, Gen Holomisa is as reluctant as Brigadier Gqozo to surrender his authority. Before the mourners, he rejected the government plans to 'clip the homelands' wings' in the wake of the Ciskei massacre.

(Photograph omitted)