Bishop Desmond Tutu, the Nobel Peace Prize winner, led a traffic-stopping procession of 30 clergymen through downtown Johannesburg to police headquarters Wednesday to protest South Africa's detention without trial of opponents of its apartheid policies of racial segregation and to seek the release of an Anglican priest held for nearly six months.
Risking arrest under the country's severe security laws, which bar political protest by two or more people, the clergymen marched from St. Mary's Anglican Cathedral a mile and a half to police headquarters to demand that the Rev. Geoff Moselane and other political detainees be freed.
Nearly 200 Being Held
"We are opposed to this detention without trial as a violation of basic human rights, a sin in fact," Tutu declared. "If there are charges, let them be heard in open court. Let there be due process under the rules of law. . . . This practice of locking you up and throwing away the key violates every tenet of justice and has become one of the cruelest of tortures."
Nearly 200 people are currently detained under security laws that permit them to be held indefinitely in solitary confinement without trial, without ever being charged with a crime.
Since his installation as the Anglican bishop of Johannesburg two months ago, Tutu has sought Moselane's release in letters and in conversation with Cabinet ministers and other senior government officials but has "gotten nowhere," he said Wednesday. Moselane, rector of an Anglican parish in Sharpeville, about 50 miles south of Johannesburg, was detained Oct. 21 in the midst of serious unrest in the region, where he is a respected community leader.
The black archbishop's decision to take to the streets in protest, coming after a similar demonstration a week ago in Cape Town in which more than 250 were arrested, may mark a significant turn in the strategy of those campaigning against apartheid here.
After marching in determined silence to police headquarters, turning away both whites and blacks who wished to join the rare demonstration, Tutu and the other clergymen sang hymns in front of the building while puzzled riot police watched. Government security agents photographed and videotaped everyone, including accompanying newsmen, and took their names.
Tutu and his two suffragan bishops, wearing purple cassocks and carrying their golden croziers, were eventually received by Brig. Andries van den Heever, the acting divisional police commander for Johannesburg, who gave them tea and said he will refer their petition to Louis le Grange, the minister for law and order, and the security police who have jurisdiction over political detainees.
Earlier Wednesday, 500 labor union members also marched through downtown Johannesburg. They sang freedom songs and chanted anti-apartheid slogans after the dropping of subversion charges against a top union official, Moses Mayekiso, the Transvaal provincial secretary of the Metal and Allied Workers Union. He had been accused over his role in leading the successful two-day general strike here last November.
"It was a victory for the workers that I had the charges withdrawn by the government," Mayekiso said later. Four men who were to have appeared with him have apparently gone into hiding, and the charges against them still stand.
After his hearing Wednesday morning, Mayekiso's supporters ran into the street, shouting and singing, and they were joined by others as they marched back to the offices of the Federation of South African Trade Unions. Police tried to disperse the crowd several times, but eventually let it proceed and hold an hourlong outdoor street rally at union headquarters.
Unrest continued Wednesday in eastern Cape province, police reported, as groups of black youths stoned police and army units attempting to maintain order in the troubled black townships around the industrial center of Port Elizabeth on the country's southern coast and in other Cape cities.
A woman died early Wednesday after being hit by buckshot that police fired at a group they said was setting up barricades on roads into Motherwell, near Port Elizabeth. A youth was hospitalized in critical condition after the incident. Blacks charged the police with firing without provocation and said the woman had been making tea in her front yard when she was hit. More than 40 people have been killed in the unrest in eastern Cape province in the past two weeks.
At Grahamstown, also in eastern Cape province, a school was burned by a group of black youths, police said, and police and military vehicles were stoned. Troops have been moved into a number of trouble areas to assist the police.
The judicial inquiry continued into the fatal police shooting two weeks ago of 19 blacks outside Uitenhage, near Port Elizabeth. A senior police officer testified that orders had been given two days before the incident that people throwing firebombs during incidents of unrest should be "eliminated." This instruction applied "under all circumstances," the order said.
The order from national police headquarters also said that policemen should not hesitate to use military assault rifles when their lives or those of the public were in danger or when there were serious threats to property; all armored cars used in riot control were to be equipped with those rifles and sufficient ammunition.
But Col. Adolf Charlton van Rooyen, the chief of the South African riot squads, said that the Uitenhage police had failed to follow other standing orders, including instructions to use tear gas, rubber bullets and birdshot to disperse crowds before they got too large.
The two officers who commanded the squad at Uitenhage's Langa township March 21 had testified that they had only rifles, shotguns and pistols and fired at virtually point-blank range out of fear that the crowd of 4,000 would overrun them and march on the nearby white suburb. Only one stone had been thrown, however, when they opened fire, and no firebombs were ever thrown or even seen, according to testimony at the inquiry.