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Black Disturbances Reported At Two of Three Funerals

November 9, 1985

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa (AP) _ Soldiers fired tear gas Saturday into crowds of defiant blacks on their way to bury a 17-year-old boy dead of a gunshot wound, witnesses said.

They said the army then denied mourners the traditional funeral ritual of ″cleansing the hands.″

It was one of two clashes witnesses said took place between soldiers and mourners in Soweto at three funerals for blacks, but they reported that no injuries resulted.

In a second funeral, residents said mourners fought briefly with police after a service for a woman who collapsed and died a week ago during disturbances. Mourners said the woman had been overcome by tear gas. Police said they knew nothing of the death.

At the funeral for a black boxer who died on Nov. 3 after a bout with a white South African, some people complained that apartheid - the government’s system of racial segregation - had given white athletes an unfair advantage over blacks.

Witnesses and residents refused to identify themselves, saying they feared reprisals from authorities.

They said thousands of blacks, mostly youngsters, showed up for the teen- ager’s funeral and ignored army orders to break up the procession as it gathered strength and headed from the victim’s home toward Avalon Cemetery.

Soldiers tossed canisters of tear gas into the crowd, and at least six youngsters were hauled into the armored personnel carriers in which soldiers patrol black townships, witnesses said.

The mourners scattered, said witnesses, but made their way through Soweto’s warrens to the cemetery.

After the burial, the mourners headed back to the boy’s home for the ritual of washing their hands at the dead person’s home, but witnesses said the army had erected a roadblock of armored vehicles on the street leading to the house.

″This is very important to us. The soldiers are being highly insensitive. We must wash our hands after the services,″ said one witness, by telephone.

Black funerals traditionally include all-night vigils in the dead person’s home during the hours before the service.

Saturday’s lead headline in Zulu in the black weekly newspaper City Press said, ″Go In Peace, Morake,″ a reference to the funeral for Jacob Morake, the junior lightweight who died last Sunday following a bout with Brian Mitchell.

At Morake’s funeral, black boxers with gloves dangling from their necks filled the front pews of the Regina Mundi Roman Catholic Church.

Boxers in track suits served as pallbearers for the 30-year-old victim as speakers delivered eulogies. That funeral ended peacefully.

But in anti-apartheid violence now in its 15th month, funerals have become political forums for activists venting anger at the system under which 5 million whites dominate and deny the vote to 24 million blacks.

Clashes often follow funerals, sometimes leading to deaths. More funerals result, and the cycle renews.

Under new government controls on journalists, television crews, photographers and radio recording gear are banned from unrest areas. Print reporters are obliged to report to police once they see rioting begin.

Penalties include up to 10 years’ imprisonment.

Reporters have been left with two sources of information - police and witnesses who are increasingly nervous about talking to journalists.

By official count, just over 800 people - the great majority of them black -have been killed in anti-apartheid riots that began Sept. 3, 1984.

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