A 3-year-old girl, whose death has become a new symbol of alleged police brutality in South Africa's troubled black townships, was buried here today in a brief but emotion-charged ceremony.
She was one of the youngest victims of a year of political unrest that has claimed nearly 700 lives and her death has become a test case for the police and the manner in which authorities investigate incidents of alleged brutality. The great majority of the year's victims were killed by police.
Two policemen and several young mourners were injured in clashes after the funeral.
At the same time, a 10-year-old boy was shot dead and another, aged 12, was wounded when police opened fire on a crowd in the mixed-race township of Elsie's River, outside Cape Town. An older man was killed in a nearby township.
Police were accused again of brutality today when they attacked two small groups of protesters with horsewhips in Cape Town. One was a group of detainees' relatives trying to present a petition at a police station, the other a group of bus drivers trying to protest to their employers that they have inadequate protection while driving through riot areas.
The youngster buried here today, Concilia Mitah Ngobeni, was shot in the head by a police rubber bullet a week ago Tuesday while playing in her parents' front yard in this bleak, sandy ghetto 15 miles west of Pretoria, South Africa's capital.
Several thousand mourners gathered under a canvas tent outside her brick matchbox house for the funeral, then followed the small white coffin to a nearby cemetery.
Government critics have accused the police of widespread brutality in recent months and charged that police procedures to investigate such conduct are virtually nonexistent. U.S. officials, in a briefing for journalists earlier this week, echoed these accusations and called on the white-ruled government to set up an independent body to monitor police conduct.
The government has not responded to the U.S. call. An official police statement today said police could produce no statistics on the number of officers disciplined since unrest began a year ago, although it said "there are certain allegations being investigated."
The statement, made in response to a request for statistics on police misconduct, also said, "In the majority of instances where the police have been accused of misconduct, very few if any of the nameless complainants have come forward to substantiate their allegations."
As in so many incidents here, the gap between the official police account of Mitah's death and that of local residents is wide.
Police have said she was killed when a small group of policemen was trapped by a mob of stone-throwing rioters and opened fire to disperse the crowd. A police lieutenant on the scene today said the men had fired only one rubber bullet, which apparently had ricocheted before striking the child.
But local residents said there had been no trouble in the area before policemen in a yellow van opened fire and that the child had appeared to have been shot at close range.
A neighbor, Gladys Mawila, told the Sowetan newspaper she came running out of her house after hearing a loud bang. She found three white policemen hovering over the child, who was lying in a pool of blood.
She said the men desperately tried to revive the child and shouted at her to bring a cloth and scissors.
"They asked me why I was crying because the child was not dead," she recalled.
Later in the day, a senior police officer identified as Col. H.C. Lerm visited the family, offered his condolences and promised the incident would be investigated.
He got a cold reception from the family, who ordered him to leave and refused to give him the rubber bullet, which he said was needed for evidence.
After the short ceremony, mourners returned to Mitah's house for the traditional washing of hands and meal. But a crowd of several hundred youths surged down the main road past the house until they reached a group of police vehicles.
Rocks were thrown and police responded with tear gas. One policeman was hacked on the head with an ax when he tried to pursue some of the youths into a nearby house. A colleague who went to his rescue was hit by rocks. An undetermined number of youths also were injured.
Then ensued a cat-and-mouse game between police and youths. When the youths refused to disperse, police opened fire with a new round of tear gas into the yard of Mitah's house, scattering the remaining mourners. The cannister fell only a few feet from the spot where the girl had died.
In Pretoria today Louis Nel, the newly appointed deputy minister of information, urged the United States to reconsider its intended ban on South Africa's krugerrand gold coins, saying the embargo would damage the livelihood of many blacks in South Africa and neighboring territories.
Nel said the ban was an attack on South Africa's mining industry, which is the second largest employer of black South Africans and the biggest employer of foreign blacks in the country.
Some secondary charges were dropped against 16 leaders of the United Democratic Front when their trial on a main charge of treason was resumed in the provincial Supreme Court at Pietermaritzburg today.
Charges that some of the accused had "furthered the aims of communism" and "participated in terroristic activities" were withdrawn following an objection to the indictment by defense lawyers which has delayed the start of the trial by more than two months.
Lawyers for the state said they would proceed with the main charge of treason, to which the defense also objected.
Special correspondent Allister Sparks in Johannesburg contributed to this report.