Mandela's plea for peace falls on hostile ears: Grief and anger as estimated 1.5 million mourn Chris Hani in nationwide rallies - Cape Town suffers worst rioting as youths run amok in streets

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The Independent Online
AS IF to illustrate how badly the African National Congress missed Chris Hani, the fiery idol of young blacks, Nelson Mandela struggled in a speech yesterday to retain the attention of 25,000 ANC supporters gathered in Jabulani Stadium, Soweto, to mourn their assassinated leader.

At times it became almost embarrassing. Mr Mandela's message of peace, restating the need to accelerate multi-party negotiations, fell at times not only on deaf but on hostile ears. The crowd jeered when the ANC president said he had received messages of sympathy from the ruling National Party. Attempting to correct his faux pas, he did not improve matters when he added: 'We have to work with people we don't like. We don't like the National Party but I'm prepared to work with De Klerk to build a new South Africa.'

More embarrassing still, one of the biggest cheers was reserved for the arrival, halfway through Mr Mandela's speech, of Clarence Makwetu, president of the radical Pan-Africanist Congress (PAC), who has made no apologies for his armed wing's stated policy of killing white civilians.

Mr Mandela paused, looked around and invited Mr Makwetu to come up and address the crowd. The PAC leader, not known as the most inspiring of political leaders, captured the mood perfectly when he limited his intervention to just 12 words: 'We have come to a time when leaders run out of words.' The crowd set off firecrackers in response.

As it turned out, the crowd at Jabulani, which included another 25,000 unable to enter the jam-packed stadium, did not react violently on a later two-mile march and demonstration outside Protea police station. It was the police who, unprovoked, opened fire, killing at least four and wounding more than 100. The only white victims in Soweto yesterday were two members of a BBC TV crew shot and injured by the police.

Elsewhere in the country, however, ANC demonstrators did give full vent to their anger at Hani's death. Whereas in a majority of the 84 towns where rallies were held yesterday - the ANC claiming that at least 1.5 million people had taken part in rallies nationwide - events passed off relatively peacefully, in the major cities riots of varying degrees of intensity were reported.

In Durban, Pietermaritzburg and Port Elizabeth sporadic incidents were reported of vehicle-burning, looting and stone-throwing.

In the centre of Cape Town, the most chaotic city yesterday, a police sergeant was shot in the head, shops were looted and windows were smashed. Such was the energy on display that ANC supporters derailed a train they were travelling in by jumping up and down in the coaches. Initial reports said two people had been killed and at least 15 injured in the Cape Town riots. A measure of the inability of ANC leaders to control the crowd was provided by Trevor Manuel, a member of the ANC's national executive and well-known local leader. He was punched and beaten by young blacks after he had implored people to act, in a favourite ANC leaders' phrase, 'in a disciplined fashion'.

That done, youths around the city proceeded to pelt police with stones and rotten fruit. Police sirens and helicopters hovering low over the streets compounded the mayhem. Archbishop Desmond Tutu, whose church - St George's Cathedral - is in the centre of town, was reported to have broken down in tears at one point. He tried in vain to control the situation, telling the crowd that rioters were playing into the hands of those who killed Hani.

In the Transkei 'homeland', a bastion of ANC support, half-a-million were reported to have gone into the streets to commemorate Hani. The demonstrations all appeared to have passed off without violence. But in an incident which may have been related to the Hani killing, which, despite the ANC leadership's best efforts has heightened racial sentiment among blacks, two whites were killed and a third wounded in a car ambush.

Leading article, page 23

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