Under the watchful eyes of heavily armed white soldiers and police, a crowd of about 2,000 black mourners buried 11 victims of unrest today in the first open defiance of the government's new ban on political funerals.
The mourners attended a joint service for the dead at which freedom songs were chanted and political speeches made.
They then marched in a winding procession through the rock-strewn and potholed streets of this black township to the cemetery displaying political banners.
All of these acts are criminal offenses under new regulations published Wednesday by the government. Violators face up to 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
Following a show of force at the cemetery -- where 80 to 100 soldiers and police wielding automatic rifles, shotguns and whips briefly dismounted from their armored vehicles -- the security forces left the scene after it became apparent that the crowd was dispersing peacefully.
Both sides seemed to have accomplished some of their objectives. The mourners demonstrated their willingness to defy the ban and pay political homage to their dead. By their presence, the police demonstrated their ability to crush that defiance if and when they choose to do so.
But the small size of the crowd seemed to reflect the effectiveness of the ban and the state of emergency that the white-minority government declared two weeks ago to quell black unrest.
The subsequent police roundup has taken off the streets dozens of activists in this black township outside the city of Port Elizabeth. The activists previously had been instrumental in organizing gatherings of 30,000 or more for funerals.
Police announced 15 more arrests today under the emergency declaration, bringing to 1,399 the number of persons detained since the emergency was proclaimed. Fifty-four persons have been released.
The funeral ban stipulates that only one victim of unrest can be buried at a time. It also outlaws political speeches and requires mourners to travel in cars to the cemetery along a route designated by the local police commander.
The rules apply to the 36 cities and towns designated under the emergency declaration, including this township. Zwide has been the scene of some of the most intense unrest in this country, where nearly 500 blacks have died since September.
Police have put the death toll nationwide at about two dozen since the emergency began, but several of those buried today have not appeared on the official list. Ten of the 11 have been killed in clashes with police since the emergency was decreed.
They include two students shot to death 11 days ago at Phakamisi High School here. The official version is that the youths were killed when police opened fire with shotguns on a crowd of 150 that had stoned them. Police denied ever entering the grounds of the school.
But the school headmaster, Lungile Gouka, told a different story in a brief but emotional speech to the mourners today. According to his account, police invaded the school, shot two teachers and assaulted two others, then opened fire on students who sought to escape.
Witnesses, including foreign journalists, who have seen the school say there are bullet holes in classroom windows and a bloodstain on one floor. The Department of Education in Pretoria has confirmed to Reuter that four teachers were injured.
Outside the New Apostolic Church, where the funeral took place, elders attempted to avoid a confrontation with police observing from nearby vehicles. They pleaded with people to stay off the streets.
But inside, there were illegal chants extolling Spear of the Nation, the underground military wing of the outlawed African National Congress.
Despite a regulation stipulating that only an ordained minister can speak at a funeral, at least a dozen laymen gave speeches, almost every one a plea for further resistance.
"These children were shot down for speaking up for the truth," said Buziswa Fazzie, an activist of the Port Elizabeth Women's Organization whose husband has been detained under the emergency.
After the speeches, the procession made its way to the cemetery, which is separated by the tin-roofed shacks of Zwide from a four-lane highway.
A policeman perched atop an armored vehicle a few feet from the gravesites filmed the mourners while another guarded him with a shotgun. Then, after a brief sortie through the cemetery, police and soldiers departed.
Despite the lack of violence, the day claimed yet another young victim. A 15-year-old boy, Zimasile Maphela, was shot in his side Thursday by police on a street corner, according to his father, Lulamile. The boy had been caught in a crowd fleeing police after a stoning incident, his father said.
Maphela said he was afraid that if he took his son to the hospital, the boy would be arrested. The wound was stitched up by a local doctor, and the bullet was left inside.
The boy died this morning. His body, clothed in fresh blue trousers and a yellow T-shirt, hands carefully folded, lay in the back seat of a green Toyota in the back yard of the Maphela home. Lulamile Maphela said he did not know what else to do with it.