JOHANNESBURG, South Africa (AP) _ Dozens of political detainees were freed Wednesday, according to reports in South African news media.

The reports of releases followed a ruling Monday by the Natal province supreme court that the government exceeded its powers in some regulations under which thousands of people have been jailed since a nationwide state of emergency was imposed June 12.

Business Day, a Johannesburg newspaper, said Justice Frank Smuts confirmed the releases of 42 detainees held in the Orange Free State town of Frankfort.

Eight activists from Lenasia, a township for people of Indian descent outside Johannesburg, were freed Tuesday, the South African Press Association reported.

A spokeswoman for the Detainees' Parents Support Committee, the main group that monitors emergency detentions, said it was impossible to tell how many people had been freed since Monday's ruling, but newspapers quoted lawyers around the country as saying the number was significant.

Louis le Grange, law and order minister, said Tuesday the government would appeal the Natal court ruling. The decision technically applies only in Natal province, but anti-apartheid activists said similar challenges would be filed in other provincial supreme courts.

The government Bureau for Information, the only official source of information on racial unrest under the emergency, said two blacks were burned to death and another killed by a security guard overnight.

It said about 50 blacks used burning tires to ''necklace'' a woman in Soweto, the huge black township outside Johannesburg, and about 10 people poured gasoline over a man and set him afire in the KwaNdebele tribal homeland northeast of Pretoria.

A guard fired five shotgun rounds at the attackers in KwaNdebele and killed an 18-year-old youth, according to the bureau.

Under the emergency regulations, journalists may not report the actions of security forces without permission, publish the names of detainees or quote vaguely defined ''subversive statements.''

More than 2,000 people, nearly all of them black, have been killed since an uprising against the apartheid policy of race discrimination began in September 1984.

Most have died at the hands of security forces, but many victims are black policemen, township councilors and others considered by black militants to be sellouts to the white authorities.