As seven more blacks died in racial unrest in South Africa today, six opposition members of Parliament who conducted their own investigation into the fatal shooting by police Thursday of 19 persons revealed that their findings directly contradicted the official version.
Today's violence centered on black townships around Uitenhage and Port Elizabeth in eastern Cape Province. Much of it took the form of retaliation by residents against black police officers and persons suspected of collaborating with the white-minority government.
The members of Parliament, all aligned with the liberal Progressive Federal Party, said evidence they had gathered in sworn affidavits by blacks who were in the crowd indicated that police had opened fire without provocation or warning.
The official police version, repeated by President Pieter W. Botha yesterday, is that a mob of 4,000 blacks armed with sticks, stones and gasoline bombs was marching on the white town of Uitenhage and that a contingent of police who tried to stop them opened fire only after being surrounded and attacked.
The death toll from the shooting rose to 19 today, as another victim died of injuries suffered Thursday.
The legislators said that an examination of bloodstains at the scene indicated that the crowd, which was on its way to a funeral, was about 20 yards away when the police opened fire and that there was no sign that they had surrounded an armored troop carrier in which the police were riding or that incendiary bombs had been used.
"The conclusion must be reached that the action was punitive and not preventative," the Parliament team's spokesman, Errol Moorcroft, said in a telephone interview from Uitenhage today.
The legislators also put some of the blame for the confrontation that led to the shooting on administrative bungling. They said the funeral procession had been banned at the last moment, but no announcement of the ban had been made in the township where the crowd began the march.
A number of policemen's homes were set afire yesterday and last night, and the burning continued today. Eighteen homes were razed in the township of Tinus, near Port Elizabeth, police said.
Local reporters said smoke hung over the Uitenhage township of Kwanobuhle today as residents attacked the homes of policemen and a funeral parlor belonging to T.B. Kinikini, who was the only member of the township council who refused to join a mass resignation last week. The councilors have become targets because black nationalists regard them as collaborators in the white-minority government's system of segregation called apartheid.
Police reported later that Kinikini's 18-year-old son and two other youths who were guarding the funeral parlor were killed by a mob and that their bodies were burned. Kinikini has gone into hiding, they added.
Kwanobuhle is the township where Thursday's funeral was to have been held, and the people who were shot were on their way there from Langa, a township about 10 miles away.
Police also said two black youths who attacked a policeman in Kwazakele, a township near Port Elizabeth, were shot and killed today.
The six opposition figures, who began an on-the-spot investigation within hours of the shooting and continued questioning Langa residents yesterday, found a high degree of corroboration in sworn affidavits from people in the funeral procession, Moorcroft said.
According to the chronology of events they compiled, people began gathering at a bus depot in Langa about 8 a.m. Thursday to go to the funeral of a student activist killed in a clash with police last week.
The funeral originally was to have been held last Sunday, but the authorities, fearing that the procession would be turned into a political rally, ordered it postponed until Thursday.
Belatedly, the authorities recalled that Thursday was the 25th anniversary of the Sharpeville massacre, in which police killed 69 black protesters.
Realizing the risk of permitting the funeral on such an emotional anniversary, a magistrate issued an order Wednesday night prohibiting it, but, in a further blunder, it was announced only in Kwanobuhle, where the funeral was to be held, and not in Langa township.
The result, Moorcroft said, was that on Thursday morning Langa residents did not know of the ban.
African funerals are community occasions that can take all day, and Thursday's gathering was leisurely. Community leaders had urged people to stay home from work to attend. It was going to be hot, so people had brought hats and sunshades, and men took off their jackets, slinging them over their shoulders.
It was then that the police arrived, the black witnesses told the investigation team. They came in an armored troop carrier called a Caspir, which, because of its topheavy bulkiness, the township-dwellers call a "hippo."
A police officer ordered them out of the buses, the witnesses said. The people spilled out and stood milling around, bewildered and annoyed. Four men described as "Rastafarians," probably black-consciousness activists, moved among the crowd telling people that if they could not go in buses to the funeral, they should walk.
Moorcroft said witnesses told his group that a column of people, perhaps 200 to begin with but swelling quickly as it moved along, began walking toward a street running south toward Uitenhage that passes through the southwestern side of the town.
According to some of the people who have made sworn statements, the troop carrier drove through the procession to get ahead of it, and took up a position at the crest of a slope on the road overlooking a stretch of open ground and the town of Uitenhage less than a mile away. There it turned and parked across the road, blocking it.
Some of the people said in their statements that as the vehicle passed, they saw an officer inside talking on a "telephone." Soon afterward they noticed a second troop carrier coming up behind them.
The procession made its way up the slope toward the troop carrier. All of the witnesses, Moorcroft said, recalled that a teen-ager rode out front on a bicycle.
He added that none of the affidavits make any mention of people carrying stones or sticks.
As the column of people approached the "hippo," the affidavits say unanimously, a shot rang out, and the boy on the bicycle fell dead, his head burst open by a rifle bullet.
They say that there was no order to stop, no warning shot was fired and no tear gas was used.
Seconds later gunfire rang out from the troop carrier parked on top of the slope and the second one, which had driven up behind the procession, they said. The people were caught in cross fire.
Moorcroft read the testimony of one man caught in the firing line, which he said was typical of many of the accounts the legislators had been given.
"I turned and ran," said the man, who said that he had been walking near where the cyclist fell. "Everybody ran. The police were shooting at all of us. People were falling on either side of me.
"One of those who fell was one of the Rastafarians . . . . I was afraid I was going to be shot, too, so I fell to the ground and lay still. I was next to the Rastafarian. I saw him try to get up and heard someone shout that the 'Rastif' was still alive. There was another shot, and he fell again. I think he was dead.
"I got up and ran then," the man's affidavit continued. "The other 'hippo' was firing at me. A bullet hit me behind the left ear. Another hit me in my thigh and another in my right leg. I crawled into a culvert at the side of the road and hid there for about half an hour."
Moorcroft said other affidavits gave accounts of the shooting. All said that there was more than one volley fired and that the shooting continued after the people fled.