South African police fired shots and sprayed teargas into a crowd of black demonstrators in Soweto at the weekend, (17 June) after a mass memorial service for the victims of riots which occurred there two years ago.
South African police fired shots and sprayed teargas into a crowd of black demonstrators in Soweto at the weekend, (17 June) after a mass memorial service for the victims of riots which occurred there two years ago. More than 500 people died in anti-apartheid riots in 1976, but in the latest demonstrations, police said there were no casualties. Up to 300 black youths gathered in the township's streets on Saturday and the police said they had to use teargas and gunfire to disperse the protestors.
SYNOPSIS: Earlier up to 4,000 people had attended the five-hour memorial service in honour of the second anniversary of the 1976 riots. They gathered despite roadblocks and police searches. Every car on a major road leading to the Regina Mundi church of Soweto was checked, but still the congregation found its way to the service to sing freedom songs and to give raised fist salutes.
The road blocks were put up two days in advance of the service and the Rand Daily Mail reported 600 arrests in the area -- although the police denied any connection between the round-up and the anniversary. For weeks the authorities have been mounting what they described as an "anti-crime drive", during which they have searched homes. A call by the township's leaders for a shutdown of trade as a sign of mourning was widely observed.
The Regina Mundi Catholic Church was the scene both of the main service, and of a smaller gathering the previous day. On Friday (16 June) an estimated 2,000 people arrived to sing freedom songs inside the church.
Dr. Nthato Motlana, Chairman of the Committee of Ten, an unofficial group of Soweto leaders, received a spirited ovation from the crowd.
Black Bishop Desmond Tutu was among the audience to hear Dr. Motlana's denunciation of recent detentions of black South Africans and to avow that the black fight would be a peaceful one. Both memorial services, despite the back power salutes, passed without violence, though one or two members of the congregation fainted.