20,000 in South Africa mourn Tambo, celebrate his achievements Government offers $45,000 reward for killers of 5 whites

May 03, 1993|By Michael Hill | Michael Hill,Johannesburg Bureau

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa -- "Amandla!"

For the second time in as many weeks, the Zulu word for freedom was shouted by mourners in a soccer stadium outside Johannesburg in Soweto, South Africa's largest black township.

Two weeks ago, it was on the lips of a crowd of 100,000 people angered by the slaying of Chris Hani, a top official of the South African Communist Party.

Yesterday, about 20,000 were there, but not in anger. They were almost joyful as they celebrated the long, fruitful life of Oliver R. Tambo, a pioneer in the African National Congress who died a week ago at the age of 75. He had suffered a serious stroke in 1989.

Meanwhile, police offered a $45,000 reward for information leading to the black gunmen who killed five white men Saturday in a hotel in East London, a port city in the volatile Eastern Cape region, where 11 whites have been killed since November.

Police identified two of five suspects as Lungisa Ntintili and Thembelani Xundu and issued their photographs. The radical Pan Africanist Congress, whose guerrilla wing has been blamed by police for past attacks on whites, identified Mr. Ntintili as a PAC member in February.

The service for Mr. Tambo was the latest in a series of public funerals in a country where for years funerals provided the only opportunity for blacks to gather and express themselves politically.

After the services for Mr. Hani, the pro-apartheid Conservative Party buried one of its patriarchs, Andries Truernicht, while thousands gathered in the Sebokeng township to pay respects to some of the 19 people killed by gunmen on the eve of Mr. Hani's funeral. Some allege police involvement in those slayings.

Nelson Mandela, president of the ANC, has been shaken in the past two weeks by the loss of two of his closest allies, first the charismatic, articulate, 50-year-old Mr. Hani, a political son of Mr. Mandela; then Mr. Tambo, Mr. Mandela's political brother, who headed the ANC in exile for the 27 years Mr. Mandela was in prison.

"Here lies before you the body of a man who is tied to me by an umbilical cord which cannot be broken," Mr. Mandela told the crowd at Mr. Tambo's funeral. "We say he has departed, but we cannot allow him to depart while we live."

Though there was a joy in the crowd, there was also recognition of Mr. Tambo's Moses-like fate, living to see the promised land but dying before he could get there.

"Our people are hurt by the death of our father," the Rev. Frank Chikane, secretary general of the South African Council of Churches, said of Mr. Tambo. He noted that Mr. Tambo spent his life trying to get whites to end apartheid but that "the majority hardened their hearts, and today he lies here before us before he was able to cast a vote."

Mr. Tambo's death drove home the mortality of the living legends of the ANC, the 81-year-old Walter Sisulu and the 74-year-old Mr. Mandela. No one wants to contemplate the possibility of making the transition to democracy without Mr. Mandela, considered the one man who can unify the black population behind peaceful negotiations and elections while still reaching out to the white government.

Among the official mourners yesterday was a delegation from the United States, headed by Donna E. Shalala, secretary of health and human services.

"President Clinton wanted our delegation to be here today to honor the memory and life of this extraordinary leader," she said. "Oliver Tambo never lost his faith in South Africa, his love of his people, his love and faith in the ANC.

"Because of his leadership and other leaders of the liberation movement, the dream of all thoughtful South Africans is at hand. This is the time, this is the hour for all those engaged in the negotiation process to free South Africa once and for all of the bondage of apartheid," she said to thunderous applause.

Though the reception was enthusiastic, the incongruities were obvious, since the allies of Mr. Tambo and the ANC have not been those of the United States.

Ms. Shalala appeared between speakers representing Cuba and the Palestine Liberation Organization. Most of those who addressed the gathering spoke of Mr. Tambo as their "comrade," but Ms. Shalala referred to him as "Brother Tambo."

The Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, who received the warmest greeting of any American, said the U.S. presence at the funeral was a sign "that your struggle is not in isolation; you are not alone.

"It says that we respect the legacy of the freedom fighters of South Africa. The United States is finally on the right side of history, solidly against apartheid, in strong support of the fruitful negotiation process. We will keep the pressure on."

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