At angry burial, thousands urge de Klerk ouster Victims of massacre mourned with guns

June 30, 1992|By Jerelyn Eddings | Jerelyn Eddings,Johannesburg Bureau

BOIPATONG, South Africa -- Thousands of blacks called for the ouster of President F. W. de Klerk as they gathered yesterday to bury victims of a gruesome massacre here this month.

The mood was more angry than mournful as tens of thousands streamed into this dusty little township, which has become a rallying point for black organizations in their fight against the white minority government.

Gunshots rang out at the cemetery as people began arriving for the mass burial, and groups of young men marched around the cemetery with sticks and clubs. Some could be seen waving rifles through the windows of cars and buses.

A few miles away, speeches and sermons were still under way at Boipatong's ragtag soccer stadium.

"We have a message for you, Mr. de Klerk. Your time has come to go," said Jay Naidoo, general secretary of the Congress of South African Trade Unions, a key ally of Nelson Mandela's African National Congress.

The crowd at the stadium picked up the theme, shouting, "De Klerk Must Go. De Klerk Must Go."

"Our message to our people is that the final battle has come for our freedom. We cannot spend years on this last mile," Mr. Naidoo said.

Mr. Mandela did not attend the funeral for the 38 massacre victims. He was at a meeting of the Organization of African Unity in Dakar, Senegal, where he planned to ask for international assistance in solving South Africa's political crisis.

Crucial negotiations between the government and 18 other political groups collapsed when the ANC, the main black political organization, pulled out of the talks after the massacre. ANC officials blame government security forces, saying they assisted members of a rival black group in carrying out the bloody June 17 attack.

Residents say police were called before the massacre with warnings that there might be trouble. Horrified township residents called police again during the massacre, they say. But police did not arrive until long after the attackers left. Several residents also insist that they saw whites taking part in the attack.

Cyril Ramaphosa, secretary-general of the ANC, told the funeral

crowd that Mr. de Klerk's government was responsible for killing thousands of blacks in townships around the country.

"You cannot escape responsibility for the carnage that is continuing in our country," he said in remarks directed at Mr. de Klerk. "You are personally responsible for the killing of our people."

Mr. Ramaphosa said the South African president should leave office because "he has proved he is incompetent and useless because he cannot control the security forces."

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