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Two Blacks Hanged for Six Murders Related To Township Unrest

September 1, 1987

PRETORIA, South Africa (AP) _ Two black men were hanged Tuesday for killing a township councilor and five of his relatives in violence connected to three years of anti-apartheid unrest.

The West German government, churchmen, black activists and the convicts’ mothers had pleaded for clemency, saying the men - Moses Jantjies, 23, and Wellington Mielies, 26 - were political prisoners.

Activist Winnie Mandela, declaring that she spoke for the African National Congress and its military wing, told a memorial service in Johannesburg that the men had not died in vain. Armed police with dogs surrounded the building, searching people who entered and ordering reporters away from the scene.

Police later surrounded another Johannesburg building where striking members of the black Post Office and Telecommunications Workers Association were meeting.

Police ordered hundreds of onlookers to leave and, according to witnesses, set dogs on a half dozen people, causing the crowd to surge into a ground floor window, which shattered under the pressure.

Ambulances were called as the police, armed with tear gas and shotguns, followed singing strikers through the streets.

The Post Office said agreement was reached on most points in discussions Monday night to end the two-month strike by more than 14,000 workers, which has shut down service in black townships and slowed deliveries in white areas.

Sheriff Milton van der Westhuizen said Jantjies and Mielies were hanged in Pretoria Prison for killing Councilor Ben Kinikini, his four sons and another relative in Kwanobuhle township, near Uitenhage, in 1985. The victims were stabbed and their bodies set on fire by a crowd after the six fled Kinikini’s blazing funeral parlor, where kidnapped activists were believed held.

Township councilors and black policemen have been targeted for attack by militants, who say they collaborate with the government.

Jantjies and Mielies were the first of 33 convicts scheduled for execution as the result of murders during unrest that began in September 1984. The government views the convicts as criminals subject to normal legal processes. Anti-apartheid spokesmen say they are, in effect, prisoners of war.

Mrs. Mandela told 300 gathered in Khotso House, where several anti- apartheid groups have offices, ″I greet you in the name of the African National Congress. I greet you in the name of Umkhonto we Sizwe,″ the armed wing of the ANC founded by her husband, Nelson, who is serving a life sentence for sabotage.

″We have come to terms with the fact that the enemy has declared war,″ she said. ″We accept the challenge. The blood of the comrades has not flowed in vain.″

Grahamstown Mielies, father of Wellington Mielies, said shortly before their death, the convicts had sent a message to ″continue the struggle.″

Police headquarters in Pretoria said Khotso House was surrounded under emergency regulations allowing them to prevent news coverage of events they declare involve unrest. Two journalists were briefly detained and their film confiscated, police said.

West Germany’s foreign minister, Hans-Dietrich Genscher, urged President P.W. Botha Saturday to spare Mielies and Jantjies as an ″important contribution to the interior stability of South Africa.″

The militant South African Youth Congress, organizers of the memorial service, said the hangings would contribute to ″a potentially explosive atmosphere.″ The Soweto Women’s Group asked Botha’s wife, Elize, to intervene.

The Rev. Frank Chikane, general secretary of the South African Council of Churches, prayed for the two men at a service in Johannesburg. Scores of students marched with placards at the University of Cape Town to protest the executions.

Besides Jantjies and Mielies, five other people were hanged in Pretoria on Tuesday for crimes not related to racial unrest, bringing the year’s total to 104.

Apartheid establishes a racially segregated society in which the 25.6 million blacks have no vote in national affairs. The 5 million whites control the economy and maintain separate districts, schools and health services.