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Bishop Tutu Saves Black Man From Mob

July 10, 1985 GMT

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa (AP) _ Bishop Desmond Tutu, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, battled through a mob of angry blacks Wednesday and rescued a man they were about to set afire for being in league with whites.

The incident occurred in Duduza township east of Johannesburg at the end of an emotional funeral for four blacks killed two weeks ago in riots against white rule.

Just after the burial, 50 to 60 blacks set the car of the suspected black informer ablaze and began beating him. The black, Anglican bishop, who is 5 feet 3 inches tall, pushed through the crowd with the aid of Bishop Simeon Nkoane and saved him.


Those in the crowd suspected their victim of being a police informer, witnesses reported. Black policemen and officials, and others thought to aid the white government, have become frequent targets of violence in South Africa’s troubled black townships.

Tutu, 53, said the incident showed that ″the system is hated with a passionate hate, and anyone who is perceived as collaborating ... is seen as an enemy of the struggle. That is no longer just a slogan. They are quite angry at these people, whom they regard as their co-oppressors.″

Bishop Nkoane, who rescued a black man in almost identical circumstances Tuesday after a similar funeral in nearby Kwa-Thema township, saw the beating first but was unable to stop it.

Witnesses said Nkoane then went for his colleague and Tutu led the way into the mob.

″We rushed in, and they had already burned his car, they had doused him with petrol, they were intending to put one of the tires around his neck and then to place him on the burning car,″ Tutu said later by telephone from his home in Soweto, the huge black township outside Johannesburg.

″We eventually succeeded in getting them not to assault him any further, and got him into Bishop Simeon Nkoane’s car, who then drove him away and took him to the Nigel hospital.″

A foreign reporter said: ″There’s no doubt in my mind that if Tutu wasn’t there, the man would have been set on fire and killed in a matter of seconds.″ Reporters at the scene said the suspicion that the man was an informer was strong because he gave his name as that of a well-known local businessman, but changed his story when challenged.

Tutu said people in the mob told him that ″we were saving someone who was the cause of so much trouble to them.″


″In the end, I think rather reluctantly,″ he said, ″they seemed to concede the point I was making″ - that such attacks on other blacks were a discredit to the fight for black rights and against the official apartheid race policy that keeps whites in control.

The bishop said recent arrests and detentions of many anti-apartheid leaders threatened to leave the campaign without direction and uncontrollable. ″Part of the reason why we did succeed is because they still respect me to some extent, but we don’t have the stature of a (Nelson) Mandela or (Oliver) Tambo,″ he added, referring to the jailed and exiled leaders of the African National Congress.

″The action the government takes against those leaders is self-defeating. You end up with a group of people who have no real acknowledged leadership, and that kind of group soon degenerates into a mob.″

Tutu won the peace prize in 1984 for his efforts on behalf of South Africa’s blacks.

Police headquarters in Pretoria confirmed two more deaths of blacks Tuesday in Kwa-Thema before the funeral there for four other blacks killed in earlier rioting.

Authorities said on Tuesday that seven blacks were shot dead during attacks on homes of black policemen. Residents said police fired tear gas into a movie theater being used for a pre-funeral vigil, and shot down at least six of the victims when they ran out.

Gen. Johan Coetzee, the police commissioner, said in a statement that his office had investigated the residents’ charges and found them groundless. ″In every case where a person died, the police acted in self-defense or in defense of the property of a policeman,″ he said.