At least 1,200 nonwhite university students were detained by armed South African riot police today for holding a mass memorial service for black leader Steve Biko, who died in police detention Monday, allegedly after a week-long hunger strike.
The service at the University of Fort Hare was one of many demonstrations held throughout South Africa to pay tribute to the man considered by many here to be the founder of the black consciousness movement. Bitterness has mounted daily over Biko's death - the 20th detainee to die in police custody in the past 18 months - as church leaders, politicians student groups and newspapers have begun a protest campaign.
A convoy of about 20 police vehicles surrounded the singing black-clad university students in the Ciskei tribal reserve. Women studentwere told to leave, but when they refused, police using dogs began ordering the group into our large vans. There was violence and both sides showed "restraint," according to an eyewitness. Officials later said the students hadcontravened the Prohibition of Gatherings Act.
Observersspeculate that the angry reaction is likely to build evenfurther as news spreads of the detention today of Moki Cekisani, 34, by security police. Ceikisani is the presidentof the militant Black Peoples Convention the organization o of which Biko was honorary president. It was the fourth time he has been detained this year, according to the Johannesburg Star.
At a mass rally at the all-white University of Cape Town, today, liberal editor Donald Woods, a close friend of Bilo's, told a group of about a thousand students:
"We have got to bring this government down and we have got to bring it down with every civilized and constitutional means at our disposal."
Woods, the editor of the Daily Dispatch in East London, near Cape Town, also demanded answers from the government on four disputed aspects of Biko's death:
Why was the first version that he had died in hospital and the latest that he was found dead in his cell?
Why did the minister of justice, Jimmy T. Kruger, wait until after the death to accuse Biko of inciting violence when he could have prosecuted him under a wider range of laws? Biko was being held under the Terrorism Act, which allows detention without charges for up to one year.
Why did Kruger create the impression that the state was arranging a post mortem in the presence of pathologists nominated by Biko's family, when the post morten had already been started?
Why were there two different versions of his death? Last night, Kruger revealed that Biko was being fed intravenously on the day before his death. This had not been disclosed previoulsy on the day before his death day said intravenous feeding, after five or six days without food, should have prevented the death.
he rally attended by Woods, who has been highly critical of the government's race policies, originally was benned on the ground that "public peace would be seriously endangered." However, just over an hour later the banning order was rescinded, without explanation. An all-night vigil was scheduled for tonight at the allwhite Rhodesia University in Grahamstown. This morning the students' Representative Coucil called on the justice minister to resign "on grounds of gross negligence and for failing to ensure the safety of an individual in his care."
Several pro-government publications and organizations joined protest calls today. Cape Town's prominent Afrikanns Die Bruger called for an immediate judicial inquiry into the cause of death.
Johannesburg's pro-government paper the citizen asked:"STWhen will they learn? They are the faceless, nameless men who detain people without trial in what they consider to be the interests of the state. it is a system we have never accepted because it is contrary to all the established practices of our law...
"We are a civilized country and we cannot accept the illtreatment of any prisoner, no matter what circumstances the country finds itself in, nor can we sleep well if any prisoner died in controversial circumstances while he is incarcerated . . . irrespective of what caused his death, he should not have died. Not even if he was on a hunger strike. For there are ways of keeping hunger strikers alive."
The moderate Rand Daily Mail devoted one-third of a page to stories of hunger strikers in South Africa who have survived longer than Biko under difficult circumstances. The most noted case is The Rev. Bernie Wrankmore, who fasted for 67 days on the windswept Rocky Signal hill in Cape Town to protest political detentions without trial.
The Mail also pointed out another prominenet former faster: Prime Minister John Vorster. During World War II, security police arrested the then yount attorney for allegedly harboring fugitive internees and for alleged pro-German sympathies. When Vorster's appeal for a trial was denied, he went on a hunger strike, which lasted "a few days" until he was sent to an intermen camp.
In addition, the Mail questionend doctors about Biko's chances of survival while fasting. The writer concluded, "It is virtually impossible for a firm man of 30 to die from hunger after seven days without food or liquid."
Black reaction is mounting to "the breaking point," according to one prominent leader from Soweto, the Johannesburg black suburb. Several blacks queried today said they would rather not comment for fear of repercussions.
Johannesburg's black newspaper devoted several pages to Biko, and in an editorial accused the government of "allowing" Biko to die - "without any word being got to his family as to his deterioration in health. Biko's death on top of all those other fatalities has created waves of anger and disgust that will not die down with the usual passing of time."
The rage over Bikos's death is now being channeled into a general protest over laws that allow detention without trial. Biko had been detained since Aug. 18 without recourse to bail, legal advice or the courts.