Two black men were hanged today for a multiple killing committed during an outbreak of anti-apartheid violence, despite clemency pleas from their mothers, black activists and the West German government.
Activist Winnie Mandela, declaring that she spoke for the African National Congress, told about 300 people at a memorial service in Johannesburg that the men had not died in vain.
“We have come to terms with the fact that the enemy has declared war,” she said. “We accept the challenge. The blood of the comrades has not flowed in vain.”
Armed police with dogs surrounded the building where the memorial service was held, searching people who entered and ordering away reporters.
Sheriff Milton van der Westhuizen said Moses Jantjies, 23, and Wellington Mielies, 26, were hanged in Pretoria for the killings of Councilor Ben Kinikini, his four sons and another person in Kwanobuhle township, near Uitenhage, in 1985.
The victims were stabbed and their bodies set on fire by a crowd outside Kinikini’s funeral parlor. Township councilors and black policemen have been targeted for attack by militants, who say they collaborate with the government.
Jantjies and Mielies were the first of 33 convicts scheduled to be executed for slayings committed during three years of unrest that began in September, 1984.
The government views the convicts as criminals subject to normal legal processes. Anti-apartheid spokesmen say they are political figures or, in effect, prisoners of war who should not be executed.
In Johannesburg, more than a dozen black postal service strikers were injured today by a collapsing glass storefront in a clash with riot police armed with shotguns, tear-gas launchers and automatic rifles and backed by attack dogs.
Reporters and bystanders said the clash occurred when the hundreds of strikers spilled onto the street from labor union offices, confronting squads of police. Witnesses said the protesters pressed against a glass storefront, smashing it. Reporters saw glass shards being pulled from protesters who were treated on the busy sidewalk before being taken away in ambulances.