SOWETO, SOUTH AFRICA, AUG. 27 -- A crowd that swelled to more than 50,000 people marched through the streets today to the funeral of eight African National Congress supporters killed during the bloody violence that has rent this and other ghetto townships in the Johannesburg area over the last two weeks.
The funeral crowd packed Soweto's Jabulani Stadium, where Archbishop Desmond Tutu repeated ANC accusations that white-led police had not been impartial in bloody clashes between ANC proponents and backers of Zulu Chief Mangotuthu Buthelezi's rival Inkatha movement, leaving Inkatha fighters heavily armed while tear-gassing and disarming their opponents.
Tutu denied that the violence stems solely from political and tribal friction between Inkatha and the ANC, whose supporters, including Deputy President Nelson Mandela, are mostly members of the Xhosa tribe. "Our freedom is at hand, but there are those who don't want us to have our freedom, so they have made us fight one another," Tutu said.
Law and Order Minister Adriaan Vlok later rejected charges that police have taken sides in the conflict. He said in a statement that individual officers may have acted improperly but that the force as a whole tried to maintain order, the Reuter news agency reported.
Meanwhile today, business throughout the Johannesburg region -- the industrial heartland of South Africa -- came to a virtual standstill as the ANC and its allied organizations called for a work stoppage to mourn the dead and to protest the alleged police collusion in the violence. Heavily armed troops and police stood by during the funeral rally, but there were no incidents, and the region marked its fourth quiet day following the Aug. 24 imposition of a limited state of emergency and a large-scale disarming of the warring factions.
Police, who have been going door-to-door seizing weapons, said four more bodies were found over the weekend in townships around Johannesburg where more than 500 blacks died in factional strife over the previous two weeks.
However, as the fighting died down in the Johannesburg region, it flared up again in Natal province, the base of the Inkatha movement and its leader, Chief Buthelezi. Police reported that at least 11 people were killed there Sunday in clashes between supporters of Inkatha and the ANC.
The bloodiest incident occurred near the Indian Ocean resort town of Port Shepstone, where nine men were found stabbed and shot to death. Two others died in Imbali township, outside Pietermaritzburg, the provincial capital, which has been the scene of persistent factional violence over the past three years.
In Soweto, Mandela's wife Winnie attended the funeral gathering wearing a camouflage jacket and cap and a military webbing belt. Winnie Mandela has seemed lately to identify increasingly with the ANC's radical guerrilla wing, while her husband, who is in Norway for a conference, acquires a more moderate image as he and other black leaders negotiate with President Frederik W. de Klerk on a new power-sharing constitution. One outcome of those negotiations was the ANC's recent announcement that it was suspending its armed struggle against white-minority rule in South Africa.
In his Soweto speech, Archbishop Tutu also appealed to black youths who have been involved in the fighting to return to school and complete their educations.
"That's our real weapon of freedom," he said.