Thousands of blacks attended an open-air prayer service in Rhodesia on Sunday (4 December) to commemorate people killed by the country's white-led security forces during recent raids into Mozambique.
Thousands of blacks attended an open-air prayer service in Rhodesia on Sunday (4 December) to commemorate people killed by the country's white-led security forces during recent raids into Mozambique. Part of the service was conducted by black nationalist leader Bishop Abel Muzorewa, who has refused to discuss a Rhodesian settlement until a week's mourning period is over.
SYNOPSIS: The site chosen for the service at Mabvuku, near Salisbury, was packed. The Rhodesian Government claims 1,200 were killed during the Mozambique raids nearly a fortnight ago, but black leaders believe the death toll was much higher.
People were searched for guns, knives or other weapons to prevent any possible outbreaks of violence at the gathering.
The crowds gave Bishop Muzorewa an enthusiastic greeting. As leader of the United African National Council, he claims the support of 90 percent of Rhodesian blacks. Last week he was invited to settlement talks with white minority Premier Ian Smith, but he refused to attend. Bishop Muzorewa said he didn't want to discuss any settlement proposals until the mourning for the Mozambique dead ends on Thursday ( 8 December ).
The Bishop has accused the Rhodesian forces of massacring refugees, including women and children. He said that for the most part the dead were not guerrillas, but families who had fled the land of their birth to seek asylum in Mozambique.
The five-day military operation in which Rhodesian forces wiped out two guerrilla camps, in both air and ground attacks, was the biggest incursion of the five-year bush war. Premier Ian Smith has denied that innocent women and children were killed during the raids. In a letter of explanation to Bishop Muzorewa he said the attacks were against armed guerrillas, who had occupied known terrorist camps.
Settlement talks called by Mr. Smith last week followed his statement that he is willing to grant universal suffrage to Rhodesia's six million blacks and about 300,000 whites. Although Bishop Muzorewa didn't attend, the government is hopeful he will join further talks when the mourning ends.
During the service the Bishop spoke of the coming "final act of crossing Zimbabwe's River Jordan to freedom and independence", and urged the people to be determined in their efforts.