Tumahole, South Africa: Nobel Peace Prize Bishop Desmond Tutu, speaking one day after the government banned political funerals in many black townships, vowed today that he was ready to defy the ban and go to jail.

Addressing a funeral crowd of about 8,000 in Tumahole township, which lies just outside the emergency area and is not subject to the ban, Tutu made an emotional appeal to the white minority government to lift the restriction which he said would worsen the country’s racial crisis by creating a new point of confrontation.

“IT beg the authorities; don’t test us,” Tutu implored. “I don’t want to break the laws of this land, but if they pass laws which are quite unjust, quite intolerable, then I will break that law even if it means that I have to go to jail.”

It was a day of intensified racial conflict, with a black civil rights lawyer reportedly shot dead by four hooded gunmen in a Durban township and a black police officer killed in a shootout with a guerrilla band near the port city of East London.

There were fears of unrest spreading to Durban tonight following the killing of the civil rights lawyer, Victoria Nxenge, 43, whom friends said was shot dead by four hooded gunmen outside her home in Umlazi township.

There was rioting after her husband Griffiths Nxenge, also a civil rights lawyer, was assassinated in 1981.

Victoria Nxenge took over her husband’s law practice. She was a supporter of the United Democratic Front, the main black activist organization, and she participated in many political trials.

She was due to represent two of 22 front leaders who are to go on trial for treason in Pietermaritzburg Monday.

Friends in Durban said tonight Nxenge was shot in the head as she stepped from her automobile at 7:30 p.m. They said a woman who was with her saw four hooded gunmen speed away in car.

There have been several cases recently of black activists being killed by men wearing hoods, prompting allegations that a “hit squad” has been established to eliminate key people. Police say they have no knowledge of such a squad.

The funeral in Tumahole offered some insights into how the black activist organizations are withstanding the attempts by the white authorities to put them out of action with mass arrests under the emergency regulations imposed July 21.

Although the township, which adjoins the small Orange Free State town of Parys, lies just outside the emergency area, local residents say it is being subjected to much the same Kind of crackdown by police acting under the country’s standing security laws which also permit indefinite detention without charges.

Five community leaders have been detained since the emergency was declared July 21, and four have been in detention for three months. Fifteen others have gone into hiding to avoid detention, leaving the five activist organizations in the small township of 30,000 inhabitants with a weakened leadership.

Yet the funeral rally was well organized, with an elaborate program of speeches and _ stewards keeping a tight control over the worked up crowd while armed police watched from distant rooftops.

Several of the organizers said in interviews that they had come out of hiding to help with the arrangements, and would return “underground” after the funeral.

Article extracted from this publication >>  August 9, 1985