Four More Blacks Reported Killed; Police Ban Memorial for Molly Blackburn
JOHANNESBURG, South Africa (AP) _ A white doctor who obtained a court order restraining police from assaulting political prisoners said today she has resigned her government post because a series of death threats ″added to my misery.″
Wendy Orr, 27, caused a stir last September when she filed suit and testified that hundreds of inmate patients whom she examined in Port Elizabeth - mostly blacks held without charge - had been ″brutally assaulted″ by security police.
Earlier, police headquarters in Pretoria reported four blacks, including three burned to death, were slain overnight, the apparent victims of blacks turning on each other in this racially divided country.
In another development, police banned a memorial service Saturday in Port Elizabeth for leading white anti-apartheid activist Molly Blackburn. Her funeral Thursday attracted about 20,000 black mourners and hundreds of whites in a rare multiracial outpouring of grief and political fervor.
Announcing her resignation, Dr. Orr, who was switched from prison work to old age homes and was shunned by some colleagues after filing suit, said a series of telephoned death threats ″have just added to my misery.″
″I just have to get out of the job I am in and out of Port Elizabeth,″ she told reporters. She has applied for a job in a black clinic in Johannesburg township that is run by voluntary workers, she added.
In an unprecedented action for a state employee, last Sept. 25 she won a temporary order by a Supreme Court judge barring police from abusing political detainees in the Port Elizabeth and Uitenhage districts of the Eastern Cape.
The state did not oppose the order. State lawyers have until Jan. 27 to file testimony and a final hearing is scheduled Feb. 4.
By police count, 6,616 people - of whom 452 are still held - have been picked up since the government imposed a state of emergency last July 21 in a bid to quell anti-apartheid rioting. Released detainees and support groups have made repeated charges of police brutality against detainees.
The police commissioner for the Eastern Cape, Brig. Ernest Schnetler, invoked catch-all police powers today under a 5-month-old state of emergency to ban the memorial service for Mrs. Blackburn.
″There were thousands at the funeral. You can imagine what the memorial service would be like. The hall (where the service was to be held) is too small and it’s right in the middle of town,″ said a police spokesman, who spoke on condition he not be identified.
Mrs. Blackburn, 55, a member of the whites-only elected Cape provincial administration, died with a white civil rights lawyer, Brian Bishop, in a car crash on Dec. 28.
The four deaths reported today brought to 22 the official death toll in violence across South Africa since New Year’s Eve. Police have blamed most of the slayings on political or tribal disputes.
But in the worst hit area, the mineral-rich tribal district of Moutse, slated for merger into the neighboring tribal homeland of KwaNdebele, local black legislator Maredi Chehu claimed Thursday that at least 20 people have died there alone in the past few days.
The body of one of the blacks whose deaths were reported today was found in KwaNdebele, said a police communique, which added that he had been ″allegedly murdered in a faction fight.″ The slaying brought to eight the number of deaths confirmed by police in the area since New Year’s Eve.
Police arrested eight blacks armed with gasoline bombs and, in another incident in Moutse, fired tear gas to disperse an angry crowd, police said.
In a black district of Stutterheim, in Cape province, police said black attackers set fire to a hut, burning two blacks to death, and wounded another with stones and knives.
Police firing shotguns dispersed the attackers and arrested two men, police said, but gave no indication of what had sparked the clash.
The fourth victim was found badly burned in his home in a black district of another Cape center, Burgersdorp, police said. He died soon afterward in the hospital.
A majority of the 1,000 people killed in 16 months of violence triggered by black unrest against white-minority rule have been blacks slain in troop and police action against rioters.
Most of the remaining victims have been suspected government collaborators killed by other blacks.